Over the weekend, the NZ Herald launched its ‘Two Drinks Max’ campaign, aimed at persuading the Government to lower the drink driving limit.
The campaign calls for the drink driving limit to be lowered from 0.08mg to 0.05mg (of alcohol per 100 ml of blood), the same as Australia, Japan and most of Europe. The Government contends that ‘more research’ is needed to establish the efficacy of such a change.
Rubbish … as the Herald eloquently argues in the editorial reproduced in full below. Their summation: “We don’t need local research any more than we need a local study of the health effects of cigarette smoking before we toughen laws governing the sale of tobacco. We need political conviction. We need politicians with guts.”
There are three steps you can take:
1. Go here to join the ‘Two Drinks Max’ campaign yourself and voice your opinion in the Herald’s national poll.
3. Urge the Hastings and Napier Councils, and the District Health Board, to pass resolutions supporting the ‘Two Drinks Max’ campaign. Many of our Councillors during their campaigns railed against the personal and social harm caused by alcohol abuse. Here is their chance to put their votes behind their rhetoric … to show their guts.
Here’s the case as made by the NZ Herald:
The Government believes New Zealand drivers aren’t ready to moderate their drinking. We know they are. So take responsibility for keeping our roads safe by signing up: Two Drinks Max.
In matters of public policy, the default position should always be the one that confers the greatest likely benefit. Caution, not recklessness, should prevail.
That should go without saying. But politicians, fearful of offending sectional interests, often mistake caution for inaction. Preserving the status quo is least likely to have electoral consequences.
That has been the fate of the proposal to lower the blood-alcohol limit at which a driver may legally get behind the wheel of a car.
In August, the Government ruled out lowering the blood-alcohol limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, despite unambiguous advice from its officials that such a move would significantly reduce the number of people killed by drunk drivers.
The Transport Ministry says that reducing the level could save 33 lives, prevent up to 680 injuries and save up to $238 million every year.
The “could” is the important word here, of course: the figures are based not on research conducted in this country, but extrapolated from an aggregation of more than 300 international studies and from the experience of other developed countries that have cut the limit.
In Queensland, for example, they lowered the limit 25 years ago.
In the next year the number of deaths dropped by almost 20 per cent and serious injuries by almost 15. Lowering the limit also plainly moderated the behaviour of the drivers who were well over the 80mg limit: those who blew above 100mg dropped by up to two-thirds.
Yet, in line with the Key administration’s policy of never making a move without scenting the air, the Government has gutlessly decided it will wait for New Zealand-specific research before making a call.
That will take two years: before the research can even begin, the law will need to be changed so that the numbers of drivers involved in crashes who are under the existing limit but over the proposed one can be recorded. And in that two years, about 60 people will die needlessly.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce says that lowering the blood-alcohol limit is “an emotional and contentious issue that has been debated for years”. He’s got that right. And it’s time for the debate to stop and action to start.
Joyce also claims that many people “are worried that they’ll be criminalised for doing nothing more than having one or two drinks before they drive and they feel that they’d be quite safe in doing that”.
That is just plain wrong, either wilfully or ignorantly. As the name of the campaign we are launching today plainly shows, “one or two drinks” do not pose a problem.
Supervised experiments, conducted using staff of this paper and the New Zealand Herald, have shown how easy it is to drink to a level where your driving is seriously impaired, without exceeding the legal limit of 80mg/100ml.
An opinion poll conducted for the Ministry of Transport shows that 85 per cent of us already believe two drinks is the max.
We don’t need local research any more than we need a local study of the health effects of cigarette smoking before we toughen laws governing the sale of tobacco. We need political conviction. We need politicians with guts.
Drink driving is killing us and this morning the Herald on Sunday – and the personalities who have made the “two drinks max” pledge – are embarking on a campaign to shame the pollies into action. We make no apology for doing so. It’s a matter of life and death.