17 Sep 2012

Ex-road policing manager calls for lower alcohol limit

8:51 pm on 17 September 2012

A former police superintendent has hit out at the Government for ignoring calls to lower the drink-drive limit, saying up to 30 lives a year could have been saved.

Two years ago, the Government reduced the limit to zero for drivers under 20 but was reluctant to lower the limit for others without proper research.

Newly retired superintendent and former road policing manager John Kelly says all the scientific and international evidence suggests lowering the drink drive limit would save between 16 and 30 lives a year.

Mr Kelly says the Government missed an opportunity to reduce the road toll two years ago when people advocated for the limit to be lowered from 0.08 millilitres of alcohol in blood to 0.05.

He says it's frustrating to work on the front line without having the support of the policy-makers.

"The police are in a pretty invidious position because they're not really able to publicly advocate for a law change.

"But I think from my perspective its just common sense to reduce the level because we will save lives. It's just that simple."

An alcohol lobby group says by not lowering the drink-drive limit, the Government is taking sides with the hospitality industry.

Professor Doug Sellman from Alcohol Action New Zealand says a serious attitude change is needed by the hospitality industry, which he says lobbies the Government against reducing the limit.

But Hospitality New Zealand says it is recidivist drink drivers and others seriously over the limit who are the problem.

The Government has committed to two years of New Zealand-specific research into the level of risk posed by drivers with a blood-alcohol limit of between .05 and .08

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the Government is waiting on the results this research before making a decision.

Those results should be presented to ministers early in 2014.