Advocacy group joins call for lower blood alcohol level
The Alcohol Healthwatch group has joined those calling for a lowering of the blood alcohol limit.
The Government released its 10-year road safety strategy, "Safer Journeys" last August.
It proposed reducing the legal blood alcohol limit from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg per 100ml. There could also be a zero blood alcohol limit for those under 20 years of age and recidivist offenders.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce was progressing a road safety Cabinet paper on the impacts of alcohol out of Safer Journeys. Final Cabinet consideration on it was due shortly, a spokeswoman from his office said.
Capital Coast District Health Board chief medical officer Geoff Robinson said yesterday the 80mg level was reasonably high by international standards.
At that level people would be perceived as intoxicated with slurrying speech, unsteady walking, impaired judgement, nausea and tripping over, he said.
Otago University head of preventive and social medicine Jennie Connor said international research showed reducing the legal blood alcohol limit not only reduced the number of alcohol-related accidents but also the number of people caught with random breath testing and led to a change in public attitude.
With a lower level people were more likely to keep track of how much they were drinking and to decide earlier in the night whether they would drive, Prof Connor said.
A study in Denmark showed more people decided not to drink at all, or to have only one drink, when they were driving.
It was also shown to reduce problem drinking in general through increased awareness, she said.
Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said there was strong public support for reducing the alcohol level as shown by a Research New Zealand poll in which 63 percent of those surveyed supported lowering the limit from 80mg/l to 50mg/l.
"A blood alcohol limit of 50mg/l would allow people to have a one or two drinks with a meal and drive," Ms Williams said.
"The difference is they would be far less likely to have a serious accident behind the wheel than if they were drinking up to the 80mg/l limit -- which can be as many as six drinks over 90 minutes."
She called on the Government to reduce the limit without delay.
Allowing people to drive at the current limit was essentially "endorsing intoxicated driving".