Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Drivers to wear blood test cost - even if under the limit

Photo / Greg Bowker
Photo / Greg Bowker

Drivers who get a blood test at a roadside police check will have to pay for the cost of the procedure even if they are under the criminal limit, MPs say.

Parliament is considering a law change which will introduce a lower maximum blood-alcohol limit for motorists, with infringement notices of $200 for people who are found driving between the new limit and the old limit. A driver whose breath test showed between 251mcg and 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath would get an infringement notice, while a person whose result was above 400mcg would still face a criminal charge.

Courts can already order convicted drink-drivers to cover the cost of a blood test, but this power would not extend to people who received infringement notices.

The lower breath-alcohol threshold was expected to lead to an additional 3000 to 4000 roadside blood tests a year, and Government was looking at ways to cover the costs of the police's larger workload.

A select committee has made several amendments to the bill to help with cost recovery. If a driver refused to take a breath test and was then found to be over the infringement limit they would be fined $700. A driver who elected a blood test would have to cover the cost of the procedure - even if the blood test found that they only exceeded the infringement limit. This cost was estimated to be around $300, or an additional $100 on top of the new infringement fee.

Committee chairman David Bennett said the number of innocent drivers who would have to cough up for the cost of a blood test was likely to be small. Only someone whose breath test result was "in the criminal range" could elect a blood test and would be liable for recovery costs.

Mr Bennett said police would have discretion to waive the costs in some cases.

Labour transport spokeswoman Darien Fenton said the proposal caused "quite a lot of debate".

"My prediction is that there will be all sorts of litigation and problems with that provision. And we made those views clear."

Her party agreed to the provision because Labour wanted stricter drink-driving limits to be in place as soon as possible.

"We want to see the damn thing done. This issue goes right back to a private member's bill [in 2010] and the Government has just dragged their heels on this."

The Land Transport Amendment Bill was unlikely to be passed before the House rose for the election campaign.

- NZ Herald

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