A stupid editorial

March 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The HoS Herald editorial:

You have to hand it to the National Committee. These public servants don’t conceal their view that the Cabinet needs to lower blood-alcohol limits for drivers. While the politicians wait, inexplicably, for research on safety gains of lowering the adult alcohol limit from 80 to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the committee pulls no punches.

The HoS and Herald has been running a campaign for over a year demanding the Government do what it says, and not complete its research. To have a hysterical editorial saying that it is inexplicable they are waiting for research speaks for itself.

They also mischaracterise what the research is. It is not research into whether there would be safety gains from lowering the blood alcohol limit to 50. You don’t need research to tell you that. There would also be safety gains from lowering it to zero. There would be safety gains from dropping the speed limit to 20 km/hr.

What the hysterical HoS demands the Government  not find out is how much of an impact a lower limit would have, and what the cost would be – ie how many people legally drive at an 50 to 80 level, and would be criminalised for doing so in the future.

If you claim there is no need to know this data, then why is 50 the right level to go to? Why not 60? Why not 40?

Its latest Safer Journeys report says: “Any level of alcohol increases driving errors, and affects alertness, skill and judgments … we need the adult legal breath-alcohol concentration limits to better reflect the risk that alcohol poses to all road users and communities.”

Of course any level of alcohol increases risk. Just as any level of speed increases risk.

The committee has leapfrogged the research project – an excuse for inaction by former Transport Minister Steven Joyce – and suggested a new solution: variable limits for types of drivers. While those under 20 already face a zero limit, the committee proposes new levels “lower than the default” for those with drink-drive convictions, commercial licences, in different adult age bands and with existing demerit points.

Not a bad idea. Worth considering.

It is worth looking at the blood alcohol levels in over 25 year old drivers who are fatally injured. In 2011 it was:

  • None – 36
  • 0 to 30 – 68
  • 31 to 50 – 3
  • 51 – 80 – 2
  • 81 to 100 – 2
  • 100 to 150 – 3
  • 150 to 250 – 20
  • 250+ 15

I’m yet to be convinced drivers in the 51 to 80 range are the problem.

18 Responses to “A stupid editorial”

  1. Michael (1,071 comments) says:

    But if the Govt reduced the Blood Alcohol amounts it would be “doing something” and will make the HoS feel good because it contributed to the something being done. Won’t somebody think of the kids! (TM)

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  2. orewa1 (430 comments) says:

    “I’m yet to be convinced drivers in the 51 to 80 range are the problem.”


    Also, what about the argument that the many responsible drinkers who currently go the pubs or dinner and take care to stay below 80, will say “what the heck” and take the risk if the limit goes unrealistically low.

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  3. tvb (5,542 comments) says:

    Very sensiblle post. High risk drivers with a poor driving history should have zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs. This would include drivers with a poor safety record , demerit points and a poor history of excess breath/blood convictions. This zero tolerance should extend beyond the period of disqualification say double that period. For indefinite drivers say 5 years. Being allowed to drive with any alcohol is a calculated risk so let us manage that risk by targeting the high risk drivers.

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  4. pq (728 comments) says:

    By far the greatest numbers are in the 0 to 30 group.
    I see NZ is slowly waking up to what Australia has known for twenty years that, accidents are caused by bad driving.
    This includes // tiredness // inattention or diversion // plain out bad and aggressive driving //
    The diverted drivers include those reading complicated roadside billboards, saying that diversion causes accidents.

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  5. PaulL (6,116 comments) says:

    There are a combination of factors that go into driving competence at any particular time:
    – level of experience
    – base competence (i.e. some people are just bad drivers…..not pointing to any particular groups you understand)
    – fatigue (I think I saw a study saying that someone working 24 hours straight then driving was about as impacted as someone drinking 3 beers then driving)
    – alcohol
    – distractions
    – road quality
    – how fast you’re driving

    Some of these can be impacted by long term investment – better roads, better driver training.

    Others can be impacted in combination – for example lower blood alcohol limits for less experienced drivers.

    Others are really point in time things – how much alcohol have I drunk today, how tired am I today, how many kids are in the back seat yelling at me.

    What we really need is for people to make reasonable judgements about these things – if you’re tired, drive a bit slower, or don’t drink, or focus more carefully on the road rather than deciding to fiddle with the radio.

    The problem is that our laws can’t really deal with this complexity. They focus on things like blood alcohol that have different impacts on different drivers, and different impacts in combination with the rest of the variables at that point in time. Perhaps we should be less prescriptive and focus more on bad driving – irrespective of the contributing factors. If the police catch you driving badly, or if you have an accident due to distraction/lack of attention, we fine you.

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  6. Redbaiter (11,656 comments) says:

    The Herald are a pack of Progressives who can just fuck off..!!

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  7. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    Farrar disagrees with an editorial so it gets labelled as stupid and hysterical. How laughable. When will Farrar ask for research based decision making be applied to the RONS?

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  8. MT_Tinman (4,436 comments) says:

    The slime also miss the fact that not everyone in NZ lives in a bloody city with public transport on tap.

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  9. pq (728 comments) says:

    When I am tired or upset with something, I make a conscious decision that I must concentrate absolutely on driving.
    Often in good circumstances you will see me diverted to multi task in car, not good.
    I had quite a tough pre Easter, I had to go to the North Island under difficult circumstances, I drove only 250 km per day, and I pulled into rest zones frequently.
    Most of the dangerous stuff I see on the road is drivers in good cars with arrogance and must pass this car now.

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  10. Jaffa (165 comments) says:

    The people who don’t drink at all have more accidents than those that drink a little.
    All these dangerous non drinking drivers should be banned!
    If all drivers drank, there would be less accidents.
    Statistics prove it!

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  11. Harriet (7,627 comments) says:


    “…I see NZ is slowly waking up to what Australia has known for twenty years that, accidents are caused by bad driving….”

    Good call.

    QLD Police came out recently and said that any further reduction in the road toll will be due to increased driver education.

    I watch the news here a lot in Aus and almost all the deaths are caused by two things – hoons and large trucks. Hoons speed with 2,3,4 people in the car – most die when the car hits something. Trucks are huge, simple mistakes and inattention around trucks, naturaly leads to death.

    People read that X number of people were charged with drink driving last week, or x number of crashes involved alcohol, and they then jump to the conclusion that alcohol is responsable for most road deaths. It isn’t the case. And the media won’t say otherwise.

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  12. Viking2 (14,467 comments) says:

    We should all understand by now that the media are fairy heads and actually have nil understanding of things like science, statistics and the practical stuff that engineers and scientitsts and generally practical people are born of.

    Think about it for a moment.
    Editors and the boards have failed to grasp the effect of the internet, less advertising and changes to readers reading habits.
    Which is why of course there are now many less of them, with many more to be looking for another job in the next couple of years.

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  13. Alan Wilkinson (2,438 comments) says:

    The Herald has run brain-dead stupid editorials on road safety for the last thirty years at least. Nothing new here.

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  14. UrbanNeocolonialist (827 comments) says:

    Actually looking at that data you would have to say that there is little justification to having it lower than 100mg/L – there is no sharp rise till you get above 150 (though there are probably relatively fewer driving in the 100-150 range).

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  15. Chuck Bird (6,722 comments) says:

    The data is almost meaningless unless we know the amount of alcohol everyone has in their system and different times of the day and days of the week.

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  16. pq (728 comments) says:

    I am travelling down the road on the way to Cairns. I am in a Jucy Van, not too brilliant at fast manoevres.
    And there is a truck at less than one car length behind me, and he is pursuing me at 110 km per hour .
    Its driver is like most Australian truckies an idiot automat.
    He doesn’t care if he shoves me off the road and I die, so long as he gets there when he wants.
    He doesn’t drink, he never stops concentrating and he is going to drive me into the ditch.

    In the end I put on my warning lights and slow down. The truckie moves up to my bumper bar and gives a little shunt.
    The cops pull me up later, they say we have had a complaint against you by a truckie.
    They search the car for alcohol and drugs and firearms. They are mindless Australians, but NZ cops are doing their best to catch up.

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  17. Ross Nixon (682 comments) says:

    Is picking just one year’s figures (2011) going to give us enough data to make informed decisions from?

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  18. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    How many fatal accidents are not included in the stats you present? In some fatal crashes people are too damaged to get a blood sample.

    How about including the non-fatal accidents as well. It would seem to me that people with low-level alcohol impairment are more likely to have a non-fatal accident relative to people with high-alcohol impairment i.e. lightly drunk people make simple mistakes of relatively low consequence (fender benders), very drunk people make serious and repeated mistakes that end up being deadly.

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