Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Spend limited police resources on dangerous drink-drivers and speedsters, says Labour

Sue Moroney believes police should focus on drivers who are well past the drinking and speeding limit.  Photo / Andrew Warner
Sue Moroney believes police should focus on drivers who are well past the drinking and speeding limit. Photo / Andrew Warner

Low-level drink-driving and speeding are taking up too much police time and resources, Labour says.

The party's transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney said she was concerned that police, who were "cash-strapped" under the current Government, were going after the wrong offenders.

"What we know is the police are cash-strapped, and the low levels are not what are driving the road toll up."

Labour supported new lower limits for drink-driving in 2014. The new law cut the alcohol limit for drivers 20 and over from 400mcg of alcohol a litre of breath to 250mcg, and the blood alcohol limit was lowered from 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (0.08), to 50mg (0.05).

For drivers under 20, the limit was already zero.

Ms Moroney said that she was happy with where the limits were set at present.

But the increase in the road toll in recent years showed the limits of a harder stance on lower-level offending.

Over the past three years, New Zealand's death toll has risen steadily from 246 in 2013 to 312 last year.

Ms Moroney said she was driving between Hamilton and Tauranga on the weekend and saw a dangerous driver ignored by a police car, which pulled up somebody else on a minor infringement.

"I think the focus should go on the people who are well past the drinking limit, and well past the speeding limit as well.

"What we need to do is to make sure that the police aren't spending their time or resources pulling up people who are going two or three kilometres over the speed limit, while the dangerous driver continues on the road."

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said he found Ms Moroney's comments on lower-level drink-driving surprising, given Labour's support for the law change.

"Roads are safer, the culture of drink-driving has changed significantly. The road toll is still much, much too high. Much of it deliberate or beyond a normal accident - drugs, drink, excessive speed or fleeing from police or non constraints. So anything we can do to lower that road toll or the risks around it, we should be doing."

A total of 8155 lower-level drink-driving offences were handed out between December 1, 2014 and November 30, 2015.

Over the limit

251mcg-400mcg alcohol per litre of breath:
• Drivers caught under the lower drink-driving limit face a $200 infringement fee and 50 demerit points.
• If you accumulate 100 or more demerit points from driving offences in two years, you will be suspended from driving for three months.

Over 400mcg of alcohol:
• Maximum penalty for first or second conviction: three months imprisonment or up to $4500 and mandatory disqualification of at least six months.
•Third or subsequent offence earns disqualification for more than a year, a fine up to $6000 or up to two years in prison.

- NZ Herald

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