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Almost three-quarters of drink driving deaths are caused by recidivist drink-drivers or those well over the limit, Ministry of Transport figures reveal.

Ministry figures for 2009, released for the first time, show 72 per cent of all alcohol-related road deaths were caused by recidivist drink drivers or those who were at least 50 per cent over the drink driving limit.

Transport Minister Steve Joyce said the figures proved lowering the adult drink-driving limit would not be a "silver bullet", despite widespread support for lowering the blood alcohol limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood, to 50.

"The majority of these fatalities are caused by a hard core of drink drivers who have either been convicted before or who are driving at levels far above the current drink drive limit," he said.

He said legislation currently before Parliament, the Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, aimed to get high-risk drivers off the road.

It would introduce a three-year zero blood-alcohol limit on recidivist drink drivers, when they gained their license back, with a "penalty regime" if they breached it.

The legislation would also give greater powers to courts, allowing them to require high-risk drink drivers to use "alcohol interlocks".

Mr Joyce said alcohol interlocks would physically prevent people from driving and could only be removed if the offender remained violation-free for six-months.

The legislation would also allow police to provide details to the ministry of drivers involved in serious or fatal crashes who have a blood alcohol level between 50 milligrams and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Mr Joyce said it was possible this data could eventually support a lower adult limit.

The bill also doubles the prison sentence for dangerous driving causing death.

In 2009, 123 people died in alcohol-related crashes with 88 deaths caused by drivers who had a previous drink driving conviction or were at least double the legal driving limit.

In 2008, 108 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes with 77 deaths caused by drivers who had a previous conviction or had consumed more than twice the legal alcohol limit.

The Government has come under fire since it insisted on delaying lowering the drink-driving limit.

Earlier this month, an Alcohol Action New Zealand spokesman, Doug Sellman, said the Government had its "head in the sand" by not addressing all the Law Commission's recommendations in its report - Alcohol in our Lives: Curbing the Harm.

"The Government appears determined to maintain the status quo - low prices, high accessibility, unrelenting advertising and drunk driving - a perfect recipe for maintaining the heavy drinking culture," he said.

- NZPA