Two Drinks Max: Sign up and make us safer

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.

- Sign up at nzherald.co.nz here
- Sign up on Facebook here
- Use #2DrinksMax to show support on Twitter

Take responsibility for keeping our roads safe. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Take responsibility for keeping our roads safe. Photo / Steven McNicholl

A new poll out today shows the majority of Kiwis believe they should not drive after consuming more than two standard alcoholic drinks. So the Herald on Sunday is doing something about it.

With the Government refusing to lower the drink driving limits, the paper is launching a pledge scheme to get New Zealand drivers to commit to a lower level anyway. The scheme is named Two Drinks Max, and people can pledge their support online.

It's necessary because there are people on our roads such as this young man, who talked to our reporter at a drink-drive checkpoint on Friday night: "I've had at least 12 beers. I've had quite a bit."

The young man had done his breath test, and passed. He blew exactly 400mcg - the adult legal breath-alcohol limit, equivalent to 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

He was free to drive away.

"I think although I'm a bit sluggish and my speech is impeded, it's a bit ridiculous they're putting all their resources into drink-driving," the man said.

Are you surprised you passed? "Yes," he says. "Very surprised. I thought that was it."

Auckland City road policing manager Inspector Gavin MacDonald was not surprised. "It doesn't matter how much the police do," he said. "It's about the public taking responsibility for themselves."

The Herald on Sunday, nzherald.co.nz and the NZ Herald, are launching a campaign this weekend to encourage New Zealanders to take responsibility for road safety by taking the Two Drinks Max pledge: "Starting now, I will do my part to make New Zealand's roads safer by not driving after more than two standard alcoholic drinks."

Why are we doing this? It's because the Government won't.

Despite an overwhelming weight of scientific research and the advice of the Law Commission, the Ministry of Transport and top police officers, the Cabinet decided this year against lowering the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood, which would have brought it into line with Australia and most of Europe. Some countries, such as Japan, have an even lower limit.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce acknowledged meeting the Hospitality Association to discuss its concerns that if the drink-drive limit is lowered, rural pubs would be adversely affected because their patrons will no longer be able to drive home.

But Joyce also signalled this weekend that he was ready to listen to the public, saying the Two Drinks Max campaign was a "very good initiative".

So Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns will appear before Parliament's transport select committee on Wednesday to argue that the Land Transport (Road Safety) Amendment Bill should lower the drink-drive limit.

But we can all help change attitudes. Our Two Drinks Max campaign will encourage people to regulate themselves, and to not drive if they've had more than two standard alcoholic drinks.

We will be enlisting the support of well-known opinion leaders to sign up to the Two Drinks Max pledge. And from today, all Kiwis are able to sign up to the pledge through nzherald.co.nz/2drinksmax.

Public opinion is on our side.

A new Herald on Sunday-Phoenix poll shows 76 per cent of respondents will undertake to not drive after more than two drinks. Indeed, half of those pledge to not drive after drinking any alcohol at all.

Phoenix Research director David Fougere says: "These results can reasonably be interpreted as indicating that the Government may have significantly misread public opinion about what blood-alcohol levels are acceptable for driving after drinking."

Science, too, is on our side. Last year, 129 people died on New Zealand roads as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Many - the transport ministry projects 15-33 lives a year - could be saved if the drink-drive limit was lowered from 80mg to 50mg. The reduced limit is projected to avert between 320 and 686 injuries, and to save the taxpayer up to $238 million.

Our campaign is in line with Ministry of Transport and Alcohol Healthwatch policy supporting reducing the drink-drive limit to 50mg. Senior police officers have also expressed support, and the AA has called for the lower limit to be discussed.

We acknowledge the undertaking by the Minister of Transport to carry out further research into the likely effects of reducing the limit, but in our view the science and public opinion is already conclusive.

A reduced drink-drive limit needs to be accompanied by an education campaign, educating people about the need to avoid driving if they have drunk too much. Two standard drinks is a handy guideline for most people. The Herald on Sunday offers its own pledge: we will support such a public education campaign. Starting today.

The Herald on Sunday offers its own pledge: we will support such a public education campaign. Starting today.

- Herald on Sunday

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