drink-driveNew Zealand’s lower drink-drive laws seem to have hit the right mark when it comes to keeping dangerous drivers off the road, but they’ve also highlighted many people’s reliance on alcohol.

The limit dropped from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg per 100ml last December for those aged 20 and over. Under 20s have a zero limit.

People caught with between 50 and 80mg/100ml are fined $200 and receive 50 demerit points, while those above 80 face the same charges as they would have done before the change.

Assistant Police Commissioner Road Policing Dave Cliff told Radio New Zealand that the new laws brought New Zealand into line with Australia and Europe and aimed to reduce alcohol-related trauma as a result of crashes.

“If you drink alcohol, you become impaired. The more you drink, the more impaired you become,” he said. “So even at that new, lower level, you’re still at twice the risk.”

The inference is clear: if you’re driving, the safest amount of alcohol to drink is nothing.

The combined number of infringements in the four months since the law was changed was up nearly a third (30.5%) on the previous year, but those at criminal level – above 80mg/100ml – fell 16.6%.

Effectively, people were drinking less, Mr Cliff said.

“They’re less intoxicated, less impaired, so the flow-through is as a consequence of that we should see reductions in alcohol-related road trauma,” he said.

One of the side effects of changing the drink-drive limit has been to create uncertainty as to how much people can drink and still pass a breathalyser test.

Stuff.co.nz last year conducted a none-too scientific experiment using their reporters which showed that “social drinkers… could be in for a rude awakening”. The inference, once again, was certain: the safest level is not to have an alcoholic drink if you plan to get behind the wheel because even if “you think you’re good to drive, you’re probably not”.

If you worry that you can’t go out without having a drink and that the new drink-drive laws have changed your behaviour when it comes to going out, it may well be that you have an issue you need to deal with.

Robert St Clinic has a number of addiction specialists and can provide plenty of information about addictions and related therapy.

  • If you are at all worried about your own drinking or that of a family member you can contact the clinic for more information here or call 09 973 5950.