Push for three-strikes policy

By Amy Shanks

More than a quarter of the 1166 people charged with drink-driving in Hawke's Bay last year have been caught on three or more occasions.

Statistics released under the Official Information Act revealed 53 out of 317 recidivist offenders were aged 40 to 44, while only two were between 15-19 years old.

Almost half of the reoffenders were from Hastings - Napier accounted for 130, Waipukurau 27 and Dannevirke 12.

The figures did not come as a surprise to Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust, who was campaigning to increase the punishment for drink-drivers who weren't getting the message. "More than a quarter of people reoffended - there have been a lot of changes in the area, but it seems the Government are still dragging their feet," he said.

If the trust gets its way, drink-driving will be added to the list of offences that come under a three-strike policy.

"If it's added to the third strike, on their first offence the judge will read the riot act about the consequences and hopefully deter them; ultimately on the third offence a judge would have to serve them with the maximum penalty."

Total convictions for the region stood at 1166 for 2012, down from 1308 the previous year. Statistics showed 20 to 24-year-olds had the worst record, with 283 people charged, followed by 177 in the 15 to 19 category and 173 aged 25 to 29.

"Young people do tend to be more prolific until they learn their lessons and they don't tend to reoffend," Eastern District road policing manager Inspector Peter McKinnie said.

"With those who have three or subsequent charges, there may be a gap, they may not have done it for 7 years, then get caught again."

It was an ongoing struggle to keep drinking and driving separate, but with a merger between police and the Ministry of Transport, it was not only traffic officers keeping an eye on our roads.

"We are all looking out for it, any kind of drink driving is too high, we are not happy with it at any level, it's just not something we want to see at all.

"I think the under-20s are starting to get the message, we don't tend to see a lot of them even though their [alcohol] limits are lower - it's about introducing good habits early on."

There are a range of penalties for those still choosing to make bad decisions, from a six-month licence suspension, community work or a fine to jail time in more serious cases.

"We find the people who are repeat offenders, the ones that come to our attention on a regular basis often have an alcohol problem, so we are working with other agencies, such as probation and health services. If they have served a prison sentence we will knock on their door and ask if they need some help."

New sanctions were introduced in September last year giving judges the ability to require serious or repeat drink drivers to have "alcohol interlock" devices fitted to their vehicles.

Cars with the device installed would not start if any alcohol was detected in the driver's system.

Repeat offenders can also be issued with a "zero-alcohol driver licence", which prohibited them from getting behind the wheel if they had any alcohol.

Hawke's Bay Roadsafe regional manager Linda Anderson said those measures were becoming more common in New Zealand.

"I have been and attended a conference in Australia to learn about the devices that are slowly being used more here, but there's a long way to go.

"It's always a concern we are looking at what we can do to to raise awareness, recidivism does pose a risk as they tend to do it over and over."

Overall, under-25s had shown the best reaction to the evidential breath testing, with a decrease in drink-drivers of that age showing up at checkpoints.

"We are seeing improvements in these younger people, we are seeing that they will nominate a sober driver, we are seeing a reasonable decline with Police pursuing high visibility - it's about prevention first - it's better but we have to continue."

This time of year, people needed to be extra aware of drink-driving when alcohol was flowing freely, she added.

"It's about making sensible choices.

"It is a festive time but you need to think ahead and have a sober driver."

- Hawkes Bay Today

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 23 Oct 2014 04:27:10 Processing Time: 316ms