Two Drinks Max: The five who COULD save lives

By David Fisher

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

Allan Peachy doesn't drink. Photo / Martin Sykes
Allan Peachy doesn't drink. Photo / Martin Sykes

He doesn't drink and doesn't know anyone affected by drink-driving.

National MP Allan Peachey has seen the overwhelming evidence supporting a cut in the drink-drive limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg. He says he hasn't seen any evidence to the contrary.

But Peachey and four other National MPs still appear willing to wait at least two years - and for the deaths of potentially 66 people - before changing the law.

Peachey and the other National MPs have the numbers on the transport and industrial relations select committee.

It is hearing submissions on the Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment Bill - the proposed law changes aimed at making our roads safer.

The proposed changes from Transport Minister Stephen Joyce fail to include the critical cut in the drink-drive limit - something academics and road safety experts believe would save up to 33 lives a year and prevent 686 injuries.

"I don't think of it in those terms," Peachey said. "What I would finally like to see is some sound New Zealand-driven research that will show us what is happening in New Zealand."

Peachey said the 300 academic studies, which include New Zealand data, showing a cut would save lives were not good enough. Even the work from Australia, which led to the limit being cut in every Australian state, did not reflect "New Zealand conditions".

"It is very easy to grab an overseas study. New Zealand road patterns are very different."

Peachey said New Zealand roads were of a lesser quality than those abroad and our drivers suffered more head-on collisions.

"The Government has made a commitment to have a long, hard look at it and that is a significant step forward."

Committee chair David Bennett , the Hamilton East MP, said discussion of saving lives was unfair. "You can't put it in those terms."

He refused to state whether he drove after having more than two drinks, although did say, "I try not to drink and drive."

Bennett said most functions he attended as an MP served non-alcoholic drinks. When he drank alcohol at a function, he took a taxi, paid for by the taxpayer.

Another National committee member, Michael Woodhouse from Dunedin, said he supported keeping the limit at 80mg until more research was done. "The Government has made its position very clear."

None of the submissions calling for change had any effect on his position - Woodhouse hasn't read them. "I wasn't there," he said.

The only two National MPs on the committee who would take the Herald on Sunday's Two Drinks Max pledge were Tau Henare and Dr Jackie Blue.

Blue said: "The campaign is very simple, it resonates and I'm happy to take the pledge." But on the drink-drive limit, she said: "I won't break ranks on this. I can't break ranks. Don't quote me on that please."

Outside the National Party, momentum is growing for a change. Labour MPs and the sole Green MP on the select committee, Gareth Hughes, all support a change.

Moana Mackey said she would take the pledge. "I don't drive after any alcohol. And yes, I do support lowering the blood alcohol limit."

Labour colleague Darien Fenton also took the pledge and backed a law change. Darren Hughes has also committed to a law change and Two Drinks Max.

MPS WITH CHANCE TO CHANGE MINDS

These are the five National MPs currently hearing evidence urging them to lower the alcohol limit. They will almost certainly refuse to recommend their Government do so. But they could change their position and help send a strong message to Parliament - stop wasting time and start saving lives. We have included their email addresses, so readers can make their point directly.

David Bennett
david.bennett@parliament.govt.nz

* Two Drinks Max: "I haven't really thought about it much."

* Cutting the limit: "[The research] will take a number of years."

Jackie Blue
jackie.blue@parliament.govt.nz

* Two Drinks Max:"The campaign is very simple, it resonates and I'm happy to take the pledge."

* Cutting the limit: "I can't break ranks."

Tau Henare
tau.henare@parliament.govt.nz

* Two Drinks Max: "I don't even drink one when I'm driving."

* Cutting the limit: "We'll wait and see what the research says."

Allan Peachey
allan.peachey@parliament.govt.nz

* Two Drinks Max: "I don't drink alcohol. It's a hollow gesture for me."

* Cutting the limit: "Obviously life is important - but I don't think you can think of it in those terms."

Michael Woodhouse
michael.woodhouse@parliament.govt.nz

* Two Drinks Max: "It's too simplistic."

* Cutting the limit: "The Government has made its position very clear."

KEY IS ONLY PARTY LEADER WHO WON'T COMMIT TO CAMPAIGN

The movement is growing, but the Government has gone to ground.

Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Stephen Joyce have ducked interviews on the Two Drinks Max campaignand refused to pledge to never drive after more than two standard alcoholic drinks. Neither would budge on keeping the alcohol limit at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Key is now the only parliamentary party leader who has not committed to the campaign. Labour leader Phil Goff, United Future leader Peter Dunne and Progressive Party's Jim Anderton joined this week. Act leader Rodney Hide, the Greens' Metiria Turei and Maori Party leader Tariana Turia have also taken the pledge and say the 80mg per 100ml limit must come down to 50mg to save lives.

Goff knows the cost of drink-driving after a tragedy in his 20s. A drink-driver killed his uncle Bob McGrath and 7-year-old cousin Patricia. Goff was a pallbearer at Patricia's funeral.

Dunne has said he will also carry the campaign to the National Party, his coalition partner in government, in a bid to convince it to support a cut in the drink-drive limit.

- Herald on Sunday

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