Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Two's plenty for most drivers

But still the Government waits ...

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Just one in 10 drivers would get behind the wheel after consuming more than two drinks, a new study shows.

The figures, from a New Zealand Transport Agency survey, show 90 per cent of New Zealanders won't even consider driving after more than two drinks - a ringing endorsement for the Herald on Sunday's Two Drinks Max campaign.

The Government is promising to decide whether to reduce the drink-drive limit below 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, but first wants to see research by police and Waikato University, out next year.

In the meantime, new documents reveal up to 33 people a year are killed by drink-drivers below the existing limit.

This newspaper's campaign, launched two years ago this month, called for the Government to reduce drink-drive alcohol limits, and invited New Zealanders to take responsibility for their own drinking by not getting behind the wheel after more than two standard alcoholic drinks. Nearly 10,000 New Zealanders put their name to the pledge.

The latest survey adds to a huge volume of research showing New Zealanders overwhelmingly agree the limits need to be reduced, bringing them in line with many other developed nations.

The survey, conducted on August 7 by the NZTA, asked 369 respondents how many drinks they would normally have and still consider driving.

Half of all drivers said they would not "normally" drive after having a drink. A further 40 per cent would not consider driving after more than two drinks.

However, 9 per cent would have three or four drinks, and 1 per cent five to six drinks, and still consider driving.

After a two-year battle through the Ministry of Transport, the Ombudsman and Parliament office, the Herald on Sunday has obtained documents released under the Official Information Act.

Up to 135 people died in crashes between 2006 and 2008, where police suspected or confirmed the driver had been drinking - but the driver was not tested or came in under the 80mg limit.

The documents also reveal Hospitality NZ chief executive Bruce Robertson, whose association represents 2400 hotels, bars, restaurants and liquor stores, had told the Government lowering the drink-drive limit would put an end to "responsible social drinking" and they should target "really high-level drink-drivers".

But NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said: "I'm gobsmacked the Government remains so stubborn."

Grieving families join plea for lower alcohol limit

For two years, grieving families of road crash victims have backed a Herald on Sunday campaign to lower the drink-drive limit.

Now they have been joined by the families of two drivers who crashed after drinking. They were legally sober but too impaired to safely drive.

This week Felipe Gacitua, 24, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to reckless driving causing the death of his girlfriend, Fay Roberts, 25.

Gacitua had a couple of beers while watching the David Tua-Monte Barrett boxing match at his sister's house but felt safe to drive home.

Yet Justice Geoffrey Venning found adrenalin and the "aggravating factor" of alcohol led to reckless speeds and dangerous passing manoeuvres on Alfriston's Mill Rd.

Gacitua's sister Enid said drink- driving could affect anybody. "Just don't do it."

Fay Roberts' name joins a tragic roll of people killed by drivers under the drink-drive limit but affected by alcohol.

Colin "Banjo" Patterson, 51, a law-abiding deer farmer, died after driving because he thought he was below the legal limit.

The father of eight had two beers and two cans of pre-mixed bourbon. As he drove to Tauranga from Morrinsville in 2008, he lost control on a gravel verge and plunged 10m into the Piako River.

This week, his brother-in-law Don Fairgray supported calls to lower the legal alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg.

Patterson was below the legal limit but above the 50mg called for by police, transport officials and the Herald on Sunday.

- Susan Edmunds and Cherie Howie

- Herald on Sunday

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