The family of a Northland mother and child killed in a crash caused by a repeat drink driver want stricter laws to protect other Kiwis.
Their plea comes as the Herald reveals there were more than 51,000 cases over the last decade of Kiwis with at least two drink driving offences being charged with another. The youngest drivers were just 16.
Janiah Fairburn, 20, and her daughter Azarliyah, 2, died in a crash on State Highway 1 near Topuni, just north of Wellsford, in March last year.
Fairburn's partner Henare Hadfield sustained broken ribs and a punctured lung in the crash and their 1-year-old son, Te Tairawhiti suffered spinal injuries.
Auckland teen Aizaeah Kori-Lee Tarawa faced two charges of driving with excess breath alcohol causing death and two of excess breath alcohol causing injury.
His alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when he slammed head-on into the family's car at 110km/h after crossing the centreline.
Tarawa was 19 at the time and, by law, should not have had any alcohol in his system. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to four years and three months
But it was not his first time before the courts.
Tarawa already had two previous convictions for drink driving when he killed the young mother and baby.
Fairburn's devastated family spoke to the Herald in a bid to open people's eyes to New Zealand's drink driving problem.
Guided by their Christian faith, they're big on forgiveness.
But that was a painful mountain to climb after they learned - in the Whangārei District Court - of Tarawa's previous drink-driving convictions.
To Fairburn's uncle and Kaiwaka Revival Church Pastor, Tawhiri Littlejohn, that moment was heart-wrenching.
"We were shocked because he was quite young to [have repeat offences]," he said.
"Everyone was really disappointed with him but also with the injustice of the law that lets avoidable deaths happen."
The high number of recidivist drink drivers horrified Tawhiri, who said even one is too many.
"The pain that people go through when they lose someone they love to a drunk driver is too profound."
Tawhiri called for lifetime driving bans for second convictions.
"A lifetime ban is nothing compared to someone losing their life," he said. "You can't take a life back once it's been taken."
Police provided data around recidivist drink driving over the last decade to the Herald under the Official Information Act.
From January 1, 2010 to October 14, 2020, there were 51,448 cases of drink driving involved a third or subsequent offence.
The legal alcohol limit for people aged 20 and over is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or 250 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
If you are under 20 you are not allowed to drink anything before getting behind the wheel.
Almost 6500 of those cases were in 2010. That figure for the first nine-and-a-half months of this year was down to 2610.
The majority of offenders were males and 29 was the age with the highest number of offenders.
The youngest repeat offenders were two 16-year-olds - a male and a female - and the oldest an 86-year-old man.
The police district with the highest number of recidivists across the decade was Counties Manukau, followed Bay of Plenty, Canterbury and Waitemata. The district with the least was Tasman.
REPEAT OFFENDERS - CASES BY DISTRICT
Counties Manukau 6130
Bay of Plenty 6076
Auckland City 3168
Although the number of repeat drink drivers is trending down, police say there's a long way to go.
National road policing manager acting Superintendent Gini Welch said four key measures had helped. They were: month-long spotlights on specific areas of bad behaviour, such as impairment; high-profile checkpoints; testing more drivers, whatever they're stopped for; and a more preventative approach to managing known offenders.
"We will continue with the progress we have made with specific focus on behaviours that we know will reduce the harm on our roads such as impaired driving - alcohol and drugs - speed, people who are distracted, and people not wearing restraints," Welch said.
"They are playing with their life, and the lives of others around them on the road.
"Alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in about a third of all fatal crashes. That's a lot of lives, a lot of people who could still be here today had the driver made a different choice."
Welch said police would focus "even more" on alcohol over the festive period.
"We know people like to socialise and celebrate at the end of the year - and that's okay," she said.
"What we ask is to plan ahead. Get a cab or get a mate to be the sober driver and take turns over the summer at doing that. Or stay over at your friend's house if it's a spontaneous evening.
"The reality is, if you get behind that wheel drunk, you are risking your life, and the life of anyone else unlucky enough to be sharing the road with you.
"You wouldn't want your family on the same road as a drunk driver, so don't put someone else's family in that danger by getting behind the wheel drunk.
"Over the summer we will have police staff on the road every day, including dedicated road policing teams."
Police will be targeting times and locations identified as high-risk. They will focus on speed enforcement, breath alcohol testing, drivers using cellphones and people not wearing seatbelts to keep Kiwi roads safer.
Consequences could range from verbal warnings to criminal charges.
"Our officers take the action they deem most appropriate for the situation and the intervention they believe is most likely to lead to road safety, whether it's education, compliance, or enforcement," said Welch.
"If we understand the cause of the offending, we are more likely to be able to prevent it happening in the future.
"What we care about is the road safety outcome - that means getting everybody through their journey safely."
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi would not comment on Littlejohn's call for harsher penalties for drink drivers, deferring to Transport Minister Michael Wood.
Wood said any life lost due to a drunk or drugged driver was "a needless waste".
"And my sympathies are with those who have lost loved ones," he said.
But there were no plans to tighten punishments for repeat offenders at this stage. The Government had already made "interlock" sentences mandatory for anyone convicted of two or more drink-driving offences within five years and any first-time offenders caught driving at more than 3.2 times the legal alcohol limit, Wood said.
An alcohol interlock is a breath testing device wired into a vehicle's starting system. Before the vehicle can start, the driver must blow into the device. If any level of alcohol is detected on the driver's breath, the vehicle won't start.
In 2019 almost 2500 interlock licences were handed down by the courts, compared to only 240 in 2017, before the law came into force, Wood said.
"As part of the Road to Zero road safety strategy – our plan to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 40 per cent – police will prioritise enforcement of distracted drivers and drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol to deter potential offenders and improve road safety.
"We will also review road safety penalties and this could include looking at the drink driving penalties. The Government has also introduced a drug driving Bill which will set up a random roadside oral fluid testing regime."
Wood urged drivers to be sensible on the roads this summer.
"The roads are going to be busy this holiday season and police will be out in force, so my message to Kiwis is if you're going to drink or take drugs, don't drive."