Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Drink drive reoffending a 'man thing' - experts

Males in their early forties are the worst drink driving offenders, according to statistics. Photo / Jason Dorday.
Males in their early forties are the worst drink driving offenders, according to statistics. Photo / Jason Dorday.

The worst recidivist drink drivers in the country are men in their early forties and experts say the problem is a "man thing".

Almost 6000 drivers faced their third or subsequent drink-driving charge up to November last year, and men made up 86 per cent of the total.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show that up to December 1, 5955 drivers had been charged with drink driving for at least their third time.

Of those drivers, 5042 were men - mostly in the 41-45 bracket. The remaining 913 were women mostly in the 36-40 age group.

The Canterbury district topped the table with 722 recidivist drink drivers being charged - 638 of those men and the majority aged between 21 and 25.

Bay of Plenty came in close behind with 715 recidivists including 564 men, followed by Counties Manukau with 678 charges, including 605 men. In both districts the majority of men charged were in the 41-45 age group.

Since 2008 the number of repeat drink drivers charged has dropped by about 14 per cent.

Police were using various measures to target recidivist offenders, including keeping a list of their vehicles and keeping an eye out for them.

They were reluctant to reveal too many of their tactics, saying their aim was to catch drink drivers, not to tell them how to avoid capture.

Experts said men featured more in the statistics because of their attitude towards authority and their belief they were invincible.

Criminologist Greg Newbold said the reason for the difference in the numbers of male and female recidivist drivers was simple.

"Women follow rules more readily than men, and respond to authority more easily. Women are more passive than men and take direction more often.

"It's the greater propensity for men to challenge authority and to take risks that leads to them being more likely to take risks in driving and to challenge the authority of the law. Taking risks, being defiant. It's a 'man' thing."

Psychologist Nathan Gaunt believed more men continued to drink drive after being caught due to "feelings of invulnerability ..."

He said people might continue drink driving because they were addicted. "They might be unable to give up and need treatment.

"There is also the idea of 'gamblers fallacy'. We tend to think that if we have been caught doing something we are somehow less likely to get caught in the near future."

Mr Gaunt said one drink-driving charge was enough for most people to realise their behaviour was wrong.

"Many people do get a wake-up call when they are caught drink driving, that their behaviour has crept to a place that is not acceptable to them. Some can make concrete decisions to not do it again - others have addiction issues and struggle trying to stop [and] some don't care."

Psychologist Sara Chatwin said that men tend to drink more than women and therefore found it harder to stop drinking even if they had been prosecuted.

"This kind of response could be fuelled by an addiction that needs to be urgently addressed. Alcohol consumption is such an accepted part of our society that for many people drinking to excess and then drinking and driving is just accepted practice."

- NZ Herald

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