Drink driving convictions fall

By Cassandra Mason of APNZ

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CHECKS: The number of drink-driving convictions is falling in Wairarapa, although there is a hard core of repeat offenders.PHOTO/FILE
CHECKS: The number of drink-driving convictions is falling in Wairarapa, although there is a hard core of repeat offenders.PHOTO/FILE

The number of drink-driving convictions in the Wairarapa is dropping, despite a hard core of repeat offenders.

Ministry of Justice figures released under the Official Information Act show more than 200 people recorded drink drive convictions in Wairarapa in the year to June, a drop on the previous two financial years.

Of these, more than a quarter recorded their third or subsequent conviction.

A man in his 30s was convicted for the region's highest breath alcohol reading last year of 1213 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath - more than three times the legal limit.

The previous year a woman in her 40s claimed the dubious title with a reading of 1393mcg.

Wairarapa police Senior Sergeant Jymahl Glassey said drink-driving was a major focus for local police.

"Everyone that's stopped is breath-tested, especially after the hours of darkness ...

it's pretty much standard practice."

Local programmes were designed to target repeat offenders, and police kept an eye out for high-risk drivers.

In December, Marlene Melanie Watkins-Barlow, 40, was convicted of drink-driving in Masterton after she parked her car on the footpath across a McDonald's entrance - mistaking it for a carpark. She blew 928mcg - more than twice the legal limit.

The same month, Adam King, 19, was convicted in Masterton of careless driving causing the death of his friend.

King lost control of the car he was driving in Featherston on May 29, killing his 17-year-old passenger.

He recorded a blood alcohol reading 55 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The youth limit is zero.

The number of drink driving convictions nationwide fell significantly over the last three years from 27,518 to 23,377.

However, recidivist drink-driver numbers remained reasonably consistent.

Automobile Association (AA) motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the national drop was largely thanks to the zero tolerance alcohol policy for drivers under the age of 20.

"We are making improvements but we're still not there, and the real problem that we see is ... the percentage of drivers that we've caught before is going up."

The "catch and release" approach of punishing repeat offenders and ignoring the root cause wasn't working, Mr Noon said.

AA wanted to see more rehabilitation programmes for recidivist drink drivers, and more interlock devices to prevent them getting behind the wheel unless completely sober.

"One guy has 18 drink-driving convictions and there's no interlock on his car."

Late last year, the Government revealed plans to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood for drivers aged 20 and over.

The lower threshold means the average male will be over the limit after four to six 330ml beers drunk over two hours - instead of six to nine at present. The average female would be over the limit after three to five beers.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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