A 13-year-old girl who crashed a stolen car into a concrete wall in front of an off-duty police officer is the youngest drink-driver caught this year.
The Manurewa schoolgirl recorded an alcohol level of 305 micrograms per litre of breath shortly after the crash on Saturday.
The legal limit for adults is 400mcg/l. Drivers under 20 have a zero alcohol level, which means if they are caught driving after drinking any alcohol at all, they will be prosecuted.
But because of her age, police could not charge the 13-year-old.
Instead, she is being dealt with by Youth Aid.
A senior police spokesman told the Herald that an officer was heading home from work about 3.30am on Saturday when they witnessed a Toyota slam into a concrete retaining wall on Great South Rd near Church St at Penrose.
The car had been stolen from Mangere on Friday night.
As the officer called to report the crash, the female driver and four male passengers got out of the car and fled.
Police dogs found the five, who were taken to the Mt Wellington station.
The girl was interviewed and admitted to driving the car, the spokesman said. "We carried out a breath test and she blew 305mcg/l. She blew less than 100mcg/l under the limit for an adult - at age 13."
Police had notified Child, Youth and Family, who would work with Youth Aid officers to look at the girl's "circumstances".
"We want to look at what we can do to try to stop this young lady from carrying on down what appears to be a very rocky road.
"These are not the actions of someone who just thought they'd try this kind of thing out for the first time. She was in a stolen car with four boys and blew over the limit.
"We will certainly talk to her family and CYF to find ways to stop the train that this girl is on."
Police would be looking at who supplied alcohol to the girl and how she came to be in possession of a stolen car.
Statistics show that youth drink-driving is one of the largest causes of death and injuries on New Zealand roads.
The New Zealand Transport Agency said that each year, young drivers cause nearly half of all alcohol-related road crashes.
Police figures released to the Herald this year revealed that 305 drivers under 17 were caught by officers last year.
Depending on their age, they were either charged and had their case heard in court, or referred to Youth Aid.
Police confirmed last night that the 13-year-old girl was the youngest person caught drink-driving this year.
In 2010, a 13-year-old boy was caught after he crashed his parents' Mercedes-Benz.
The boy, who had a 14-year-old friend in the car, was driving towards Tauranga from Greerton when he lost control at a roundabout, over-corrected, spun 180 degrees and hit a kerb.
Police recorded a breath-alcohol reading of 658mcg/l for the 13-year-old boy - well over the adult limit.
He was also more than four times the then legal youth limit, which until August last year was 150mcg/l.
Police described that incident as "horrendous".
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the youngest person convicted of drink-driving in New Zealand was 16. Some 14-year-olds had had drink-driving cases "proved" in the Youth Court.
THE LAW SAYS
* The legal alcohol limit for adult drivers is 400 micrograms per litre of breath or 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
* Drivers under 20 have a zero alcohol level, which means if they are caught driving after drinking any amount of alcohol they will be prosecuted.
* At 13 a person is still legally considered a child rather than a youth. They cannot be put before the courts and are dealt with under the care and protection provisions of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989.