Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

100 drink drivers nabbed a month

Police are catching more than 100 drink-drivers a month in Rotorua and on the region's roads, more than half of whom are repeat offenders.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 635 drivers in the Rotorua, Taupo and Tokoroa area were convicted for drink-driving in the six months to June this year.

In the same period, 349 people previously convicted for drink-driving were caught and convicted again.

Rotorua's top road police officer Inspector Kevin Taylor is warning drink-drivers to watch out this summer.

"We are focused on making the roads as safe as we are able to, for those who are spending Christmas or New Year's with their family," Mr Taylor, who is the Bay of Plenty road policing manager, said.

"Those who choose to drink and drive outside of the rules are the ones we will be paying attention to."

Mr Taylor said that while there were still too many drink-drivers on the road, younger motorists seemed to be getting the message.

Since the introduction of the annual drink-driving expo for high school students in the Western Bay of Plenty, there has been a reduction in the number of young women caught drink-driving in that area, he said.

The first Rotorua expo is at the Holiday Inn this week and finishes tomorrow.

"Hopefully, we will start to see a reduction in the numbers of young women drink-driving on the roads like the Western Bay area," Mr Taylor said.

Last year, no fatal crashes linked to alcohol and drug-impaired driving occurred in the Rotorua district, according to the Ministry of Transport.

This was down from two the previous year.

But total drink-driving conviction figures remained steady at about 1300 for each of the two years for Rotorua, Taupo and Tokoroa.

And the region's worst drink-driver in the first half of this year was more than three times over the legal limit of 400 micrograms per litre of breath, registering an alcohol level of 1496mcg.

Mr Taylor's message to drink-drivers is clear: "Anybody that needs to get drunk and then drive because not doing so would seriously impact on their social life needs to get a better social life."

Nationally, nearly 14,000 drink-drive convictions were handed down by courts in the first six months of this year.

A driver convicted on Auckland's North Shore had the country's highest alcohol reading for the period. The motorist was nearly five times the legal limit with an alcohol reading of 1884mcg.

New Zealand Transport Agency general manager strategy and performance Ernst Zollner said New Zealand needed to clamp down on drink-drivers.

"In spite of a reduction in alcohol-related road fatalities over the past 20 years, drink-driving is still a factor in around one out of every three fatal crashes on New Zealand roads.

"It is time for New Zealand communities and New Zealand families to face up to the reality of drink-driving. Far too many people still think it is okay to get behind the wheel after they've been drinking.

"And far too many people turn a blind eye to it when people around them drive after drinking. Their actions are the cause of a huge amount of pain and suffering in communities right across the country."

Fatalities from alcohol and drug-impaired driving have decreased in the past two years, from 144 in 2010 to 85 in 2011, Mr Zollner said.

Serious injury crashes linked to alcohol and drug-impaired driving had also fallen 18 per cent for the period, from 554 to 452.

The Ministry of Transport estimated the total social cost of these crashes to be about $898 million for 2010 - a quarter of the social cost associated with all injury crashes.

New initiatives to tackle recidivist drink-drivers have also been introduced.

New Zealand drink driving convictions:

January to June,

  • 2012: 13,849.

  • 2011: 27,707.

  • 2010: 28,714.

Rotorua, Taupo and Tokoroa drink driving convictions:

January to June,

  • 2012: 635.

  • 2011: 1311.

  • 2010: 1331.

By the numbers

  • Highest alcohol reading recorded in six months to June (micrograms per litre of breath):

  • New Zealand: 1884.

  • Rotorua: 1496.

Note: Legal limit is 400mcg for drivers aged 20 years and over

Source: Ministry of Justice

- Rotorua Daily Post

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