Worth supporting to select committee

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A member’s bill which would reduce the amount of alcohol New Zealanders could legally drink before driving has been pulled from the ballot today.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway’s Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill was one of two bills added to Parliament’s workload.

It would lower the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC) for adults from 0.08g per 100ml to 0.05g per 100ml.

The bill’s policy statement said: “There is demonstrable evidence and research already available which shows enough driver impairment between the proposed 0.05 limit and the 0.08 limit to warrant action. A drug and alcohol expert from the United Kingdom has estimated that this measure could reduce our road toll by two-thirds as it would alter driver behaviour.”

Government was already reviewing New Zealand’s drink-drive limits, which were among the highest in the world.

A study which counted how many injuries and deaths were caused by drivers who had a BAC between 0.05g and 0.08g was expected to come before Cabinet at the end of this year.

Labour have been insisting that the Government should drop the legal blood alcohol limit without getting any research done on how many actual accidents are caused by drivers with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, and how many people are driving with a BAC at that level. They have been hysterically demanding a reduction regardless of what the data shows. Even more bizarre is they of course did nothing in nine years around the limit, but the moment they were in opposition demanded the Government drop it.

I am sceptical that a drop would have much impact on our accident rate and road toll as most drink driving accidents have drivers way way over the existing limit. However I am open to persuasion if the data in NZ backs up that the accident and fatality rate from those at 0.05 to 0.08 BAC is greatly elevated. What I am against is a kneejerk decision.

However if the research is almost done, then what would seem sensible to me is to vote for the bill to go to select committee on the basis that it is an issue worthy of consideration, and then once the data is complete have that considered by the select committee. Then MPs could make an informed decision about whether a change will have a significant impact on the road toll.

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