Zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers under 20 years

Last updated on 19/01/2012 11:51 a.m.

Drivers under 20 are subject to a zero alcohol level. This initiative is one of several measures from the Safer Journeys strategy aimed at improving the safety of New Zealand’s younger drivers.

What will happen if a young driver is found to have a BAC between zero and 0.03?

They will receive an infringement notice. This will be an infringement fee of $200 and 50 driver demerit points.

A driver licence will be suspended for three months when 100 or more driver demerit points are incurred within a two-year period.

Note: BAC 0.03 is equivalent to 30mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 150mcg of alcohol per litre of breath.

What is the penalty for a young driver with over 0.03 BAC?

There are serious penalties for drivers under the age of 20 who are found to have a blood alcohol concentration of more than BAC 0.03. These are either a fine of up to $2,250 or imprisonment for up to three months, and disqualification from driving for three months or more.

If any driver is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of more than BAC 0.08 then the penalties are the same as for an adult driver and are either a fine of up to $4,500 or imprisonment for up to three months, and disqualification from driving for six months or more. If the driver is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of more than BAC 0.13 then, in addition to the above penalties, the driver’s licence will be suspended at the roadside for 28 days.

If any person drives while their licence is suspended then the motor vehicle they were driving when they are apprehended will be impounded for 28 days.

There are more significant penalties for repeat offending.

Note: BAC 0.08 is equivalent to 80mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath. BAC 0.13 is equivalent to 130 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 650 mcg alcohol per litre of breath.

Would a zero limit mean that someone could fail a breath test because of substances like mouth wash that contain small amounts of alcohol?

Testing devices will be calibrated so substances like mouthwash do not produce a positive result.

Why are young drivers subject to a zero BAC?

Young drivers have had a lower drink drive limit since 1993. This initiative recognises that even small amounts of alcohol can impair driving, particularly for young people, and sends a clear message that drinking and driving do not mix.

For young drivers the task of driving is more demanding than for experienced drivers. Alcohol reduces a person’s ability to pay attention to the driving task even at relatively low levels of BAC. As young drivers have to allocate more of their attention to the driving task than experienced drivers, the effect of alcohol on their driving performance is greater.

In 2010 there were 74 deaths and 474 reported serious injuries in crashes that involved at least one 15-19 year old driver. Of those, 28 deaths and 125 serious injuries were in crashes where alcohol was proven or suspected for a 15-19 year old driver. That is 38 percent of the deaths and 26 percent of the serious injuries in crashes involving 15-19 year old drivers. This includes all casualties in the crash - the young drivers themselves, their passengers and other road users injured in the crash.

What are the penalties?

Speeding

Speeding fines increase progressively from $30 for speeds less than 10km/h over the limit, to a maximum fine of $630 for speeds up to 50km/h over the limit.

If your speed is more than 50km/h over the limit you could be charged with careless, dangerous or reckless driving, and at more than 40km/h above the speed limit you could also get a 28-day licence suspension.

The following table shows some of the penalties for driving offences related to alcohol and drugs.

Penalties

Fines

The maximum fine for exceeding a speed limit is $1000, which applies to serious speeding offences that are dealt with in court. Most speeding offences are subject to infringement fees (instant fines), which range from $30 for driving up to 10 km/h over the limit to $630 for driving between 46 and 50 km/h over the limit.

Driver licence suspension

From 16 January 2006, immediate 28-day licence suspension applies if you're caught travelling more than 40 km/h over the permanent posted speed limit, or more than 50 km/h over a posted temporary, holiday or variable speed limit.

  • An example of a temporary speed limit is a speed restriction through road works.
  • An example of a holiday speed limit is a lowered speed limit through a popular holiday destination (eg a beach resort) during a busy holiday period.
  • An example of a variable speed limit is a lowered speed limit in a school zone at times when children are arriving at or leaving school.

Demerit points

Demerit points are given for all speeding infringements other than speed camera offences. If you get a total of 100 or more within two years, you'll be suspended from driving for three months.

Speed Demerit points
Exceeding the speed limit by up to 10 km/h
10
Exceeding the speed limit by 11-20 km/h
20
Exceeding the speed limit by 21-30 km/h
35
Exceeding the speed limit by 31-35 km/h
40
Exceeding the speed limit by 36 km/h or more
50

 

Some facts about speed cameras

The number of crashes is substantially reduced when speed cameras are used. A study of crash data in the 20 months following the introduction of speed cameras in New Zealand in 1993 found a 23 percent reduction in fatal and serious crashes at urban speed camera sites and an 11 percent reduction in fatal and serious crashes at rural speed camera sites.

International experience shows that speed cameras are a highly cost-effective speed management tool. This means they save a lot of lives for the cost of putting them in place and operating them.

Court-imposed penalties for alcohol/drugs offences

Offence             Amount of alcohol                                              Penalty                                                                     
                                                 Blood                Breath               Prison            Fine              

Disqualification or suspension of licence                    

You kill or injure someone when driving after drinking too much or taking drugs More  than 80 mg  per 100 ml   More than 400 mcg per litre Up to five years Up to $20,000

First  or second offence one year or more,  third or subsequent offence more than one year

You drive, or try to drive, after drinking too much or taking drugs and you are aged 20 years or over More than 80 mg per 100 ml More  than 400 mcg per litre First and second offences
Up to three months Up to $4,500 Six months or more
Third and subsequent offences
Up to two years Up to $6,000 More than one year
You drive, or try to drive, after drinking too much or taking drugs and you are aged under 20 years More than  30mg per 100 ml More than 150 mcg per litre Up to three months Up to $2,250 Three months or more
You refuse to give blood when asked by a police officer, doctor or approved person     First and second offence
Up to three months Up to $4,500 Six months or more
Third and subsequent offences
Up to two years Up to $6,000 More than one year
You refuse to go with a police officer for an evidential breath test or blood test       Up to $4,500 As decided by the court
You are in charge of a vehicle after drinking too much or taking drugs and you do not hand over the keys when asked by a police officer       Up to $10,000  

On-the-spot (roadside) licence suspension

Your licence will be suspended on the spot if you refuse to have a blood test or if, following an evidential breath or blood test, you are found to have:

  • more than 130 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or
  • more than 650 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.

Your licence will be suspended for 28 days and you will still have to face court-imposed penalties.

Repeat offences

The penalties described above may be increased substantially for repeat offences.

In addition, if you commit two alcohol-related offences within a five-year period and one of those offences involves:

  • refusing to go with a police officer
  • refusing to give a breath or blood sample
  • driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • having a breath–alcohol level above 1000 micrograms
  • having a blood–alcohol level above 200 milligrams per 100 millilitres

then you will be:

  • disqualified from driving for an indefinite period, and
  • required to attend an approved alcohol assessment centre.

Disqualified drivers to pay their way under new road safety laws

10 May 2011 | Auckland Motorways

New road safety legislation passed in parliament last week will require all suspended or disqualified drivers to pay a fee to have their licences reinstated before driving again. The change comes into force from today (10 May).

Previously offenders who had been suspended or disqualified for less than 12 months, and whose licence had not expired, could simply return to driving once their suspension or disqualification period ended.

However, changes included in the Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment Act mean that anyone who has been disqualified by the Courts or suspended for any reason (other than a 28-day suspension) will need to apply to have their licence reinstated before they can legally return to driving.

The New Zealand Transport Agency’s General Manager Access and Use, Ian Gordon, says it’s important that suspended and disqualified drivers understand that until they have had their licence reinstated they will be unlicensed and are not legally entitled to drive.

“Driving while unlicensed is a serious offence carrying fines of up to $1000. It also carries the risk of having your vehicle impounded,” Mr Gordon said.

The licence reinstatement fee of $66.40 covers the costs incurred by the NZTA when a driver is suspended or disqualified. These costs include administration of the demerit point system, reissuing driver licences, providing temporary licences while the photo licence is being arranged and answering related enquiries.

“It’s a matter of fairness that the drivers with suspensions and disqualifications who have incurred these costs should be the ones who pay for them, instead of the costs being passed on to all other drivers,” Mr Gordon said.

Drivers seeking the reinstatement of their licence will need to apply at a NZTA driver licensing agent. They will have to provide evidence of identity and address, complete an eye check, have their photograph taken, provide an updated signature and pay the reinstatement fee

 

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