The Government’s decision to lower the blood alcohol limit has been welcomed by the Waikato Regional Council, which has been lobbying hard for change for several years.
“Alcohol is a social issue and road crashes are no exception,” said regional council chairperson, Paula Southgate.
“On average, one-quarter of the Waikato’s fatal and serious injury crashes every year involve alcohol, which is why we support Government dropping the limit,” Ms Southgate said.
The 2013-16 Waikato Regional Road Safety Strategy has a particular focus on alcohol and drug impaired driving, with the regional transport committee agreeing to lobby for a reduced legal blood alcohol limit at every opportunity.
Legislation is now expected to be introduced to Parliament before Christmas which will see the blood alcohol limit drop from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Drivers caught between the proposed limit and current one will face $200 fines and 50 demerit points, halfway to losing their licences.
“Serious progress must be made in reducing the loss of life and human trauma on our roads,” Ms Southgate said.
“Alcohol impaired drivers are taking an unacceptable toll on the regional community. Road safety stakeholders continue to implement education campaigns and enforce drink driving on the roads, but until now we have not had stronger support from the Government to make significant headway with this issue.”
Research shows that an adult who chooses to drink alcohol up to the current legal driving limit of 80mg/100mL is around 16 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver with a zero blood alcohol level.
“The current limit has meant that for many years we have allowed people to drive on our roads while significantly impaired. The Waikato has one of the busiest transport networks in New Zealand and we have a serious issue with crashes on our roads, with about 65 people dying each year and many hundreds more being injured.
“As a region we are committed to improving road safety. Getting on top of alcohol related crashes will have a significant and immediate impact on our road toll and on the welfare of our communities,” Ms Southgate said.