Too drunk to drive?

The new lower alcohol limits for drink drivers is having its expected effect.  People who are perfectly fine to drive are now having to pay money.

Some drivers caught out by the new limit were “surprised” to discover they were too drunk to drive, he said.

At the weekend, Canterbury police launched an operation to crackdown on drink-drivers.

The total number of motorists caught drink-driving across the city was not available last night, but a checkpoint in Halswell tested 1763 drivers over a three-hour period with one driver returning an excess breath alcohol of over the old 400mcg limit, and three others giving a result of between 250mcg and 400mcg.

Canterbury police have vowed to test drivers at any time of day that they are pulled over.

Drivers who fail an alcohol test between the new and old limits avoid a criminal conviction but receive a $200 fine, 50 demerit points and are banned from driving for the next 12 hours.

This isn’t about saving lives.  All it has done is turn people who drank responsibly before into people who now get fined.   And the true problem drivers are still out there, exceeding the old limits.

At Wellington’s St Johns Restaurant, Bar and Hotel last night, Thomas Tondu said he was surprised to be stopped by police at a checkpoint on Lambton Quay yesterday morning.

“It was a bit of a surprise at eight on a Sunday morning. I can understand four or six,” he said.

Tondu said he was not a heavy drinker but doubted many people would consider they might not be safe to drive to work the morning after a big night out.

“It doesn’t cross your mind at all.”

Another punter, Peter, said he had modified his drinking behaviour to fit the new limits.

“If I’m drinking, there’s no way I’m driving. If there’s beers after work, I’ll just have one and leave as opposed to when I used to have more.”

And yes, I get it.  Just don’t drink at all.  And just don’t speed at all.   The problem is that police use the justification that it saves lives, when it demonstably doesn’t.

What it does do is

  • Lift money out of people’s pockets
  • Turn drivers into nervous wrecks as the goal posts are shifted
  • Continue to place Police in a position where they lose public support

Copping a $200 fine and demerits on the back of two beers or getting fined at 101 km/h isn’t actually achieving anything except mad moods and money for the consolidated fund.


– Talia Shadwell, Michael Forbes, The Dominion Post


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  • Whitey

    This criminalization of decent people who are just trying to do the right thing is insane.

    • Mark

      It is also criminalizing every driver. For years I kept an eye on the figures,lately they stopped highlighting them. But lets look at the one in this article;

      1763 drivers detained, 4 drivers found with an issue. Less than 0.3% (ps I am crap at maths if I am wrong I am sure someone will correct me.)

      I would suggest this is a non existent problem,completely & utterly.
      The issue is poor driving,dicking 1763 drivers around did nothing to change that.

      • Old Man, Torbay.

        Your maths are OK. Rounded to three decimal places the figure is 0.227.

        • Mark

          That’s good,I used to watch these figures for years in the Herald. Never seen the number get above 1% & for ages I thought my math must be off,since it is such a big issue.
          It gets even worse when you look at how many get prosecuted,as seemingly there is some delay with the evidential test? This means less than 50% of the initial over the limit drivers went to court,which is no doubt part of the instant fine BS we now endure. Lazy Policing.

      • burns_well_eh

        Has everyone gone completely mental? Your logic is worse than Whitey’s, and that’s saying something.

        Please reconcile your two highly conflicting statements:
        a) Every driver is being criminalised;
        b) Less than 0.3% of drivers are being criminalised.

        If the police aren’t catching anyone, then no revenue’s being collected, so what is the problem?

        • Mark

          As a Law Abiding Citizen who has exhibited no criminal behavior,I should be free to go about my lawful business unimpeded. That both you & the Police consider simply driving a motor vehicle to be a reason to pull me over disgusts me,that’s the problem.

          • burns_well_eh

            So, no answer to my simple question? How can “everybody becomes a criminal” be the same as “practically nobody’s a criminal”?

            You’re no more likely to be pulled up going about your Law Abiding Business now than you were at this time last Christmas, so why are you complaining?

    • burns_well_eh

      What a load of rubbish. “criminalisatoin of decent people” – as if being decent means you don’t have to obey the law. Here’s a hint: they won’t be “criminals” if they don’t break the law.

      “Just trying to do the right thing”? How about not exceeding the drink-drive limits? That would make them decent people actually doing the right thing, and guess what? They wouldn’t be criminals!

  • RightofSingapore

    Disagree-being just under 400 does still affect many people’s reflexes and judgment and it does still causes crashes. Unlike the no tolerance on speed, this one will actually at least prevent injuries and possibly deaths.

  • Bruce S

    But we had an election earlier this year which gave tacit approval to the government of the day to make all these “life changing” legal decisions for us. So far; all I have seen as a result of the “new alcohol and speed limits” are more revenue collectors in police uniforms. Was something else supposed to happen?

    • sheppy

      Technically this was brought on courtesy of MMP. When the lefty alliance in the last parliament managed to get enough numbers together to pass it National ran with it to deny them the positive publicity from the PC wowsers.
      Another Liberty taken away that won’t acheive anything other than revenue raising…

  • HSV325

    You forgot to mention the immediate 12 hour driving ban if caught between 250-400. Instead of messing everyone around they should just make it zero tolerance. No need to worry about a couple of be vies after work making you a criminal

  • bart jackson

    Its not a criminal offence under 400, its just an infringement much like a speeding ticket so its not criminalizing as Whitey claims. I don’t have an issue with it. as ive seen people who blow in the 300s who are clearly too drunk to drive. Likewise Ive seen people blow 800 who probably were Ok to drive. Affects different people in different ways so you have to set the bar at the lowest denominator. To me it is a separate issue from some of the speed enforcement which is revenue gathering as the lower drink limits will probably make our roads safer.

  • Michael_l_c

    .I don’t drink much, am 6’4″ 110kg. If I drink two points straight down I wouldn’t drive. I know how I feel and how it affects me. I am fortunate that I am very aware of the effect alcohol has on me. 400 I would be crawling on the floor vomiting. The lower limit of 200 does provide a challenge, until it is reasonably clear how much I can ‘safely’ drink. Even so I doubt very much that I would be driving at that sort of level.

    It is surprising how many people are driving, at 8am on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning over the 400 limit, after a nights sleep, let alone driving home after a night out & a burger.

    I would bet that the amount of eba testing & checkpoints in rural, high major crash areas, will not increase. The low hanging fruit in cities will be picked. It will have a minimal effect on fatal & serious crash statistics until police go after the ‘too hard’ areas.

    Zero tolerance is not an option. How long after you have any amount of alcohol is your breath/blood alcohol content down to zero. Without a reliable test there is no way of knowing

  • Backdoor

    However, may I suggest that there could be useful spin-offs from reducing the level alcohol a driver may have when driving. I am wondering if this will translate into lower domestic violence levels. It is does then the reduction in level is worth while.

  • Nyla

    We over heard our young neighbors discussing, on Sat evening, who was going to stay sober driver or were they going to call a taxi. These were 18 yr old males having this discussion. I think this is what the police are aiming for, making everyone responsible for their own lives. Its not nice being first to a crash site, wether its police, ambulence, patrol or fire engine

  • JC

    Its what I said yesterday.. don’t make trivial laws that can force the police to kill you if you step out of line. The deaths will come from aggrieved citizens either trying to outrun the cops or resisting arrest.

    On one level the rule of law is all important but on a more human level we rely on the law to be fair and proportional to the offence.


    • burns_well_eh

      If they’re running from the law they deserve what they get. At least if they’re running with 300 in their blood rather than 550 there’s less chance of death or serious injury – to all road users.

  • LabTested

    A personal request to any bar owners. – Please make sure you stock Amstel Light. The Lion & Steinlager low alcohol beers are simply undrinkable.

    • James M

      I’ll second that, downing and amstel light now, I made the switch after Dec 1st.

      Very hard to find them at bottle stores I might add

    • Alfred12

      Yeah same for me, it’s the only low alcohol brand that tastes like real beer.

    • Franco.Prussia

      Tuatara Iti (2.5%) is the king of low alcohol beers… tastes full strength.
      Amstel tolerable… perhaps “Two Stoke” also.
      Agree the rest are barf.

    • PhantomsDoc

      Amstel Light, more buck for your bang.

  • jasma

    I wish the government had the testicular fortitude to put the level for all people at zero. Whilst technically one drink does not make you a “drunk driver” it can and does in most cases make your reaction time slower. One second could be the difference between life and death. And people complaining about the police stopping them at 6, 7 or 10 am in the morning? Absolutely – they should do it more often – booze can stay in a person’s system for up to 12 hours and sleepy boozy people are the worst. I am not a wowser or a policeman but I have been involved in alcohol compliance for over 25 years and this country has a huge problem and it is getting worse, If you don’t have a problem with alcohol then you won’t mind not drinking if you are going to drive rather than trying to work out how much you can drink before you are pinged.

    • Wallace Westland

      No. Sorry no. I was going to let this pass but I’m not.
      I’m also not going to get into a debate or discussion but I am going to reply to your comment.
      You ARE a wowser and you and people like you have spent the last 30 years ramming your minority point of view down the rest of our throats.
      I read that the lowering of the limit would save 3 lives a year. I’d defy you to tell me which 3 would have been saved last year?
      Their names?
      I don’t care about YOUR views on alcohol compliance and I don’t care how you came to them. I’m tired of listening to people like you make claims and then hide behind innuendo making out that people like myself are heartless brutes or have no knowledge of what goes on or whatever it is you think you know.
      I’ve seen the dead in car accidents and the carnage on the roads and in the homes. The fact is that 75% of those road deaths and and accidents were actually caused by people that weren’t drinking at all.
      My point here as I close is that you are actually a minority yet of late have had far to much sway on public opinion and policy.
      Have a safe sober and Merry Christmas.

      • Mark

        We said Wallace.

      • jasma

        Oh dear – the next thing you will be saying I voted for labour!! You have made my day WW – I haven’t been called so many names in a long time tee hee….I am not a wowser nor do I ram my opinions down anyone’s throat – like you have a view which I respect, I would have thought on this forum at the very least the same would be accorded to me. I do not have the luxury of having ANY sway on anyone – I am just not that good – However if this new law saves ONE person – just one! – then it is worth it because it might just be one of your loved ones. And you too have a great Christmas, and I hope 2015 brings you everything you hope for…..

        • Wallace Westland

          Well you haven’t answered my questions, you weren’t called any names, apart from the one you put out there and I don’t own this forum but clearly you are allowed your opinion and in this forum I’m allowed to have mine.
          I realise this goes against the grain with people like you so to conclude, the continued abrogation of personal freedoms to the state is NOT in my opinion worth a single unproven statistical life and thousands of kiwi men have died upholding that belief including many in my own family.
          PS the tee hee kinda reinforces my wowser opinion.

          • jasma

            You leave me speechless with your diatribe…..

  • armotur

    New Zealand is slowly but surely & insidiously becoming a police state. The lower blood alcohol limit is a revenue gathering law which will limit peoples freedom.
    The 1km limit rubbish is simply Police bullying drivers, again for revenue gathering.

    All done on the watch of a National Government!

    • burns_well_eh

      Sorry, but the ability to drink as much as you like and then drive on the roads isn’t a freedom. It isn’t even a right – it’s a privilege that you have to earn.

      Easy way to prevent “revenue-gathering” just stick to the limits – speed and alcohol. I promise you you’ll be fine.

      • matt pearce

        How is it not a right to have a beer and drive?

        If you argue that its not then I disagree

        If you think it is then I would ask about 2 beers and so on.

        • burns_well_eh

          I didn’t say that, as you well know. I said “drink as much as you like” – if all you want is one beer, and you’re within the limits and have a valid licence then it’s your right to drive. It’s when the 2 beers and so on becomes the so on.

          If you accept there has to be a line, where would you draw it? When do your individual rights to do what you please as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone get trumped by everyone else’s rights not to have a drunk driver crash into them?

          • matt pearce

            I would like it to be done on some sort of economic scientific basis. like how many people per year die from drivers who have 400mg of alchohol, then that compared to the cost of NZers of the lower limit. Are the convictions and fines worth the 1 or 2 lives?

          • burns_well_eh

            They do exactly that analysis, it’s called the social economic cost and you can get all the figures from the NZTA website.

            The trouble is, it’s difficult to explain the relative social economic costs to someone whose husband/daughter/son/friend you’ve just scraped up off the road because they, or someone else, drove with too much alcohol in their system and had a crash.

          • matt pearce

            Ohk, I couldn’t find it but I’ll take your word for it.

            yes your’e right, that’s difficult, but its necessary

            We need to find social optimums, not minimal risk solutions. That was what I was really getting at

          • burns_well_eh

            Sorry mate, got confused with the agency after leaving the site. try this, it has all you ask about:


  • Andy

    Nobody forced you to drive when you drink!
    Stop whinging, take a cab.

    • cows4me

      What’s a cab Andy?

      • Andy

        Look it up.
        Google is your friend.

      • Mark

        It’s a city folks thing,so we can get home safe from our PR job producing PSA’s about rural drivers dying on rural roads…

        • cows4me

          Thanks Mark I always wondered if these things were real and what their purpose was.

      • Caprice

        Too true. Nearest one approx 180km away. Along with the nearest traffic light.

  • cows4me

    The new lower alcohol limit for drink drivers is having it’s expected effect”. I would only change one word in your opening statement Cam, expected for desired. This country is living beyond it’s means and those in power are desperately trying to boost the coffers. All they are really doing is producing a law enforcement agency that is fast losing the trust and respect of the common citizen, they do this at their peril. It will all come to a bad end, there shall be no winners and the roads will be none safer while the garden variety evil doers will enjoy an early Christmas.

  • Hedgehog

    Yep, the safe driving is nothing but BS. Policing school zones at 6 in the morning, or on school holidays. Policing areas with random speed changes in the space of a couple of 100 metres (Polar Ave in Paraparaumu). And they want respect? Na, I really feel sorry for the front line, when they have to enforce numpy orders.

  • OneTrack

    They have now jumped the shark.

  • Andru

    From the CAA:
    “What blood alcohol level is ok for flying?”
    “There is no measurable level of blood alcohol that is safe for aviation. Any elevation of your blood alcohol level is associated with a reduction in your performance and capabilties (impairment), and so reduces your ability to fly safely.”

    Why should driving be any different?

    • idbkiwi


      • Andru

        Alcohol impairing performance is self-evident. No peer reviewed studies required.

        • idbkiwi

          OK, so no evidence required, it’s just because you say so.

          Already numerous people have fallen foul of a very bad law, and why?:

          (if drivers with BAC 51-80 mg/dL and 6% of drinkers currently exceeding BAC of 80 mg/dL changing their behaviours from year 2, the estimated safety impacts could be a reduction of around 1.9 fatalities and 33 injuries per year.)

          So the road death toll might be reduced by less than 1%.

          The price to pay is numerous people being humiliated, having their license confiscated and forced to pay alms.

          Why don’t you sanctimonious types dream up even more laws that might lower the road toll by maybe, I dunno, 2%?. Who cares what the fact-free justification is?

          • burns_well_eh

            They don’t get humiliated, and they don’t lose their licence unless they get enough demerits to lose it. In which case that’s probably a good thing.

          • idbkiwi

            Yes, they do feel humiliated and yes, they do have their license confiscated for 12 hours, even if they’re 0.51.

          • burns_well_eh

            They don’t have their licences confiscated at all – you’re making stuff up now.

          • idbkiwi

            Yep, it’s all made up…

            “Drivers who fail an alcohol test between the new and old limits….are banned from driving for the next 12 hours.”

            “forbidden to drive for up to 12 hours”

            “What happens to me if I’m caught over the new limits?”
            “If you have more than 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath, you will be….forbidden to drive for up to 12 hours.”

            “Research indicates an additional 19,000 drivers could fall into the infringement range annually”

          • burns_well_eh

            Full marks for research, but you miss the point by a mile. You keep going on about “having their licences confiscated” when not a single person caught between the new limit and the old will have their licence confiscated. Do you not understand what the word means?

          • Andru

            A lot of people drink and then guess whether they are legal to drive. They rationalise in their mind about how much they have had to drink with vague calculations like ((drink+food)/time). But people who have been drinking aren’t good at making such evaluations and often come up with “fact-free justification”. I have seen many people run these calcs trying to determine if they’re legal even though they know their state is questionable. If the limit is zero then it is simple. No calcs required.

            Driving is the most dangerous thing that most people do. It is a serious responsibility. Drinking and driving don’t mix. I have no sympathy for people who want to drink anything and then expect a right to drive. Let them be humiliated.

            According to your logic pilots should be able to have a few beers before flying. It may cause, let’s say, an extra 10 crashes per year but that would be acceptable losses, wouldn’t it? Why should pilots be inconvenienced by wowsers?

          • idbkiwi

            At-fault drivers under the new legal limit caused more than three times the fatalities of drivers between the old limit and the new, so according to your logic we should be prosecuting people who haven’t drunk enough.

          • burns_well_eh

            Statistics are a bit like mini-skirts – they’re nice to look at, but they hide the really important stuff.

            Saying drivers under the limit caused more than three times the fatalities of drivers between the old limit and the new is meaningless, unless you also say how many more drivers there were in that bracket.

            What if there were 10 times as many drivers in the under the new limit bracket, but they only caused three times as many fatalities as those in the range between new and old?

          • Mikex

            Couldnt agree more ,the sanctimonious brigade have stopped me enjoying a couple of drinks with a meal at the local restaurant but the three times the limit piss heads just carry on killing people.

    • OneTrack

      Because flying is significantly harder and requires greater concentration than driving.

      • Andru

        The definition of a hazard is something that causes you to change speed or direction. Driving has far more hazards and thus is more dangerous than flying.

      • burns_well_eh

        And the consequences of getting it wrong are so much greater.

  • TreeCrusher

    I bought an accurate BAC meter from the states and have had a fair bit of fun with it since the new limits came in. What it has shown me is that I would never of felt comfortable driving at the old limit and anyone over the old limit should go to jail as they clearly know they are drunk and have chosen to stick the middle finger to everyone else.

    It has also shown me that people without an accurate way of measuring their BAC should stop at one drink per hour. I’ve always gone by the Aussie rule of thumb, being two standard drinks in the first hour and then one standard drink every hour after that. I have found that that does work, but depending on what I have eaten and how hydrated I am it can get me pretty close to the limit.

  • Andru

    I have my vices and I use the same bad logic as you have to justify my actions.

  • Rick H

    Same here.
    Back in the good old 70s, all of the people I knew drove drunk.
    Neither me nor any of my friends had a crash.
    I never drive after drinking these says, though – I need license for my job.

    The real causes of fatal accidents on open roads is the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
    Another cause gaining in frequency is “suicide by head-on”.