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The perfect ‘cocktail’ for a fatal crash


In the last of a five-part series on Wairarapa’s road to zero fatal crashes, GIANINA SCHWANECKE looks at the dangers of drink-driving.

While young drivers under the age of 20 seem to be increasingly aware of the dangers of drink-driving, there’s more work to be done for those who are older, a road safety advocate says.

Of the 271 drink-driving offences from July 2019 to June 2020, only a small number – about six per cent – of these offences related to drivers under the age of 20.

The legal drink-drive limit for drivers 20 years and over is a breath alcohol limit of 250 micrograms [mcg] of alcohol per litre of breath or a blood alcohol limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Those under the age of 20 are subject to a zero-alcohol tolerance. This group of drivers also recorded the sharpest decrease in incidents of drink-driving, dropping 11.1 per cent over the past year.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said it was ironic as this was the age group often considered to be the guiltiest of dangerous driving.

While the group had clearly got the messaging around ‘don’t drink and drive’, they were still vulnerable to issues relating to inexperience and speed.

Pauling was pleased that drink-driving was down across the board by about 8.8 per cent.

Drug driving was also down about 37.5 per cent over the past year, compared with July 2018 and June 2019.

“It is heartening to see that we have a slow trending down of alcohol-related crashes and offences, however we have still seen almost 300 drink-drive offences over the past year.

“This is 300 times where a driver has chosen to put their safety and other road users’ safety at high risk.”

Pauling said it was important to understand drinking at all levels impaired driving ability.

“After a few drinks, our common sense and decision-making ‘takes a hit’, and it’s then we could make that possible fatal mistake to drive, with tragic results.

“We also forget about things like putting on seatbelts, staying under the speed limit and concentrating on the road. This is the perfect ‘cocktail’ for a fatal crash.”

He said apart from the horrors of a fatal or serious injury crash, drink-driving could also impact employment or job applications, and insurance in the case of a crash.

Drink-driving can also set you back a hefty sum.

From July 2019 to June 2020, people were issued with $14,200 worth of fines for drink-driving related offences.

During this period, 187 drivers appeared in the Masterton District Court on drink-driving related charges.

Most were fined or ordered to community work, but about 15 per cent received detention sentences, including five who were sentenced to imprisonment.

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