Editorial: Govt should forget pride and lower alcohol limit

Committee's plain talk on driving risk must be heeded

The adult limit needs to fall to 50 milligrams for all. Photo / Thinkstock
The adult limit needs to fall to 50 milligrams for all. Photo / Thinkstock

You have to hand it to the National Road Safety Committee. These public servants don't conceal their view that the Cabinet needs to lower blood-alcohol limits for drivers. While the politicians wait, inexplicably, for research on safety gains of lowering the adult alcohol limit from 80 to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the committee pulls no punches.

Its latest Safer Journeys report says: "Any level of alcohol increases driving errors, and affects alertness, skill and judgments ... we need the adult legal breath-alcohol concentration limits to better reflect the risk that alcohol poses to all road users and communities."

The committee has leapfrogged the research project - an excuse for inaction by former Transport Minister Steven Joyce - and suggested a new solution: variable limits for types of drivers. While those under 20 already face a zero limit, the committee proposes new levels "lower than the default" for those with drink-drive convictions, commercial licences, in different adult age bands and with existing demerit points.

It sounds like a camel of a compromise from people who know something, anything, needs to be done to save lives. But it is a powerful hurry-up to politicians who fear occupying the "nanny state" position they once criticised.

The best answer would be for the Government to forget its pride, remember those scarred by fatality and injury on the roads, and do what is accepted in Australian states and elsewhere. The adult limit needs to fall to 50 milligrams for all.

- NZ Herald

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