Drink Driving Deaths

The Herald reports:

The Government chose not to lower the drink-driving limit despite receiving advice that doing so could save lives, papers show.

Of course it could save lives. Having a speed limit of 30 km/hr will save lives. Having a zero blood alcohol limit will save lives.

The sensible question is how many lives could it save, and how many drivers will be affected negatively by a policy change. A 30 km/hr speed limit would save probably 300 lives a year but would affect three million motorists every day.

Advice from the Ministry of Transport said a lower limit would save up to 33 lives a year.

An email from a ministry employee said statistics showed people with a blood alcohol level between 0.8 and 0.5 caused 30 deaths between 2006-2008.

From 2006 to 2008, 21 drivers involved in fatal accidents were found to have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08.  That probably relates to the 30 deaths.

However, what is overlooked is that some of those deaths involved younger drivers who already have a BAC of 0.03 – ie they were already breaking the law, and a law change would have no impact on them.

If you exclude under 25s (who should have pretty much a zero alcohol limit), then the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes with 0.05 to 0.08 BAC is six – or two drivers a year on average.

So on current knowledge, a law change might result in two less fatal crashes a year – around a 1% reduction. That is assuming those drivers would change their behaviour in response to a law change.

But what we don’t know, and what the Government has sensibly decided to find out, is how many drivers such a law change would criminalise? In other words how many drivers do actually drive at that level, and what is their rate of accidents?

Once we have that data, a decision can be made more reliably.

a Cabinet paper said keeping the same level would mean the goal of reducing the level of fatalities to the Australian rate would not be met.

A reduction to the Australian rate is a fine target, to aim for. But a reader has pointed out to me, does this mean we need joint exercises with the Aussies.

The Police talk of Operation Unite here.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Win Van der Velde, Specialist Operations, Police National Headquarters, said the combined New Zealand and Australia police jurisdictions Operation Unite has reinforced the message that police, partner agencies and the public need to work together to reduce alcohol related harm on both sides of the Tasman.

My reader writes:

NZ /Aust Police and customs unite to enforce drug law, money laundering, terrorism and other shared border threats or Inter -pol related matters but it’s not as if the 2 country’s police forces need to be on alert for offender’s driving drunk between the 2 continents!

Aside from the mixed messages and a negative spin in police reporting of less than a 1% nabbed – yet police are still disappointed, I can see the merit in police unity with partnership agencies, community and public but can’t see a cross border risk with the need for uniting Aussie and NZ forces

Our police and the Aussie police are autonomous – I’m sure each country’s police can operate these blitzes – they are pretty standard in the way they are administered, managed and performed aren’t they? –  autonomously and within their own HQ’s without any need for conference  or consultation and I fail to see sense in the fraternity of this campaign.

Or, does it serve for funding trips to Aussie for our boys in blue?

I think she has a fair point. There are many many logical things for Australian and NZ Police to combine forces on. But drink driving blitzes is not one of them – unless someone builds a bridge from Waitemata to Hobart.

I’m not arguing against drink driving blitzes – I think there should be more of them. I just don’t see how this is an issue needing international co-ordination.

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