19 Aug 2015

New drink drive limits cost drivers $1m in fines

3:56 pm on 19 August 2015

Almost 5000 drivers have been pinged with almost $1 million in fines since the drink-driving limit was lowered.

From 1 December last year, the breath alcohol limit dropped to 250 micrograms a litre of breath, down from 400.

Figures show 4917 drivers were caught between the new and old limits in the first seven months.

While those people do not face criminal charges, they are fined $200 and receive 50 demerit points.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said 30 percent of accidents involved alcohol and the new measures were making the roads safer.

"It does imply that potential accidents are lower than they would have been. It's a bit of a hypothetical because the number of accidents that have not happened because of this - that's a number none of have, but the bottom line is our roads are safer because of this but we've still got a way to go."

Mr Foss said most people were now aware of what they could and could not drink before they got on the road.

"When we brought the zero percent in for under-20s we've seen a significant decrease in some of those accidents and so hopefully the behavioural change will continue. I mean most people are very, very aware of what they can and cannot drink now - having greater awareness, greater education, and therefore our roads must be safer. But still it's early days."

Further figures show the number of people caught each month was decreasing with 801 drivers in the first month and 638 caught in June.

Automobile Association general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon welcomed the figure.

"I was surprised, and pleasantly surprised because the initial modelling that was done by the Ministry of Transport actually predicted about twice as many people would be picked up so we're running at about half the number that was originally forecast which shows that people really are getting a good message about drinking and driving. So it's actually good news."

The Canterbury Metro area had the most offences in the country, with 507 drivers blowing between 250mg and 400mg.

139 people were caught on Auckland motorways.

In the first six months of this year 12,580 drivers have been involved in alcohol-related offences including those who were caught out by the lower limit.

Last year 20,968 people were caught above the limit.