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Labour leader supports lowering limit

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Phil Goff
Phil Goff

Wellington, July 27 NZPA - Labour leader Phil Goff favours lowering the blood alcohol limit for drivers.

The Government yesterday deferred a decision on whether to lower the limit for two years, while research is conducted, though it did announce a zero drink drive limit for recidivist drink drivers and drivers aged under 20 from early next year.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the New Zealand-specific research would look at the level of risk posed by drivers with a blood alcohol limit of between 0.05 and 0.08 (50mg-80mg).

Mr Goff said failing to reduce the limit was a remarkable u-turn by the Government.

"Clearly you've got a divided Cabinet on this and a series of other issues and they haven't been able to reach a conclusion."

He said the reduction should go to a select committee so the public could have their say.

"My personal preference would be to see it lowered on the basis of evidence that I've seen.

"The select committee and this issue ought to be an evidence-based approach."

He said he was surprised how much he would be able to drink and not be over the legal limit.

Mr Goff was a member of the Labour Cabinet that decided not to reduce the limit.

He said that decision was based on not wanting to be seen to be controlling people's lives. However, the Law Commission's recent report on alcohol showed something had to be done.

Waiting to make the decision after two years of research was just a way to push the issue past the election, he said.

"It's time for the Government to show some leadership."

Prime Minister John Key said the Labour Party had nine years in government and did not do anything about lowering the drinking age.

"It's a bit rich for a government...that didn't even bother commissioning the report, to be arguing we should be doing something."

Mr Key said the public would agree with lowering the limit if the research could show a benefit.

He rejected suggestions the limit was not lowered for political reasons.

It would be lowered in the long-run but police could not be everywhere so public support was needed, he said.

There was no information about the number of people that were killed by drivers with a blood alcohol reading between .05 and .08, which is why the matter was not sent to select committee, Mr Key said.

As well as announcing the zero drink drive limit for recidivist drink drivers and drivers aged under 20 from early next year, Mr Joyce said would also be tougher jail sentences for drivers who caused death because of dangerous or drunken behaviour. alcohol interlocks -- devices which stop a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking -- would be mandatory if ordered by a judge for repeat drink drivers.

Students Against Driving Drunk national manager Anna Reid welcomed the zero limit for young drivers.

Teenagers were inexperienced drivers and the current blood alcohol limit was adding to the risk of them crashing, she said.

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