Alcohol-related crashes are a significant road safety issue in New Zealand. Auckland Transport (AT) is working closely with the community and with other agencies to reduce drink driving on our region's roads.
- Find out what New Zealand's drink driving laws are.
- Learn more about Students Against Dangerous Driving.
Plan ahead and get home safely
Auckland is now a Vision Zero region which means Auckland Transport (AT) is committed to no deaths or serious injuries on Tamaki Makaurau roads by 2050.
Alcohol contributes to around 30 percent of New Zealand's fatal road crashes. AT and NZ Police are working to reduce death and trauma caused by drink driving. If you’re planning to have a couple of drinks, plan not to drive. There are lots of alternative options to getting home after a few, instead of behind the wheel.
Even after one drink, you’ll be putting yourself and others at risk. So it’s always best to think about making a plan to get home, before you head out.
Use public transport
Auckland Transport wants to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Bus or Train – Night bus timetable available.
From midnight until late the Night Bus and Northern Express bus services are a great way to get home. Routes to North, South, East, West and Central suburbs operate on Friday and Saturday nights.
Find a bus, train or ferry timetable using AT Mobile for iPhone or Android.
Get a taxi
There are a range of taxi’s or ride share services like Uber, Zoomy or Ola available to get you home. It’ll be cheaper than facing a fine or conviction for being caught drink-driving, not to mention safer for everyone else on the road.
Nominate a designated driver or call someone to pick you up
If you live in a more rural area where there is less public transport this is a great option – especially if you take turns with your friends.
Stay over at a friend's house or check into a hotel or B&B
Stay at a friend’s or relative’s until you’re sure you’re safe to drive. Although a hotel or B&B may seem like a luxury, it will always be cheaper than facing a fine or conviction.
Drink driving is an issue for all ages.
In Auckland from 2015 to 2019 there were 519 death and serious injury (DSI) crashes in the Auckland region which were related to alcohol and drugs. Specifically, in 2017 there were 154 DSI casualties relating to alcohol/drugs, including 26 deaths (19 deaths in 2016).
Studies have shown that the risk of being involved in a crash increases as a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases. At high blood alcohol levels, the risk rapidly increases.
The following laws apply to drink driving in New Zealand:
- Under 20 - There is a zero alcohol limit if you are under 20. That means if you drive after consuming even one drink you can be charged with drink driving.
- 20 or over - You must not drive if you have consumed more than the legal alcohol limit, which is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or a breath alcohol limit of 250micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath or a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%.
It's difficult to estimate how many alcoholic drinks a person can have before they reach these limits and depends on many factors, including:
- Body weight/Body Mass Index.
- How much food you have eaten.
- If you have exercised and/or done physical activity.
- Hydration levels.
With so many varying factors, why risk it and just plan not to drive after consuming alcohol?
The consequences of drink driving in New Zealand
The consequences of drink-driving can be life-changing. The amount you’ve had to drink makes no difference. Whether just over the limit or well over the limit, in the eyes of the law you are still a convicted drunk-driver and a criminal.
One drink before driving can:
- impair your reactions putting you and others at risk of being involved in an accident
- get you a criminal record
- mean you’ll lose your licence for 6 months
- land you a heavy fine
- get your car seized
- possibly put you in prison.
On a personal level, a drink driving conviction can:
- lead to unemployment
- cause you humiliation and guilt
- negatively impact your relationships with family and friends.
Remember, if driving the day after drinking:
- alcohol stays in your system longer than you think
- the same consequences apply if you’re caught over the limit the next day.
Legal drink driving limit in New Zealand
One drink can put you over the limit
In New Zealand, the legal limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood (equivalent to 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath). Even if you’re just over the limit, in the eyes of the law you’re a drunk-driver and a criminal – there is no grey area.
The reason for the 50mg legal limit
The legal limit is not an allowance, it’s there to cover different people’s metabolisms, those suffering diabetes, plus the effects of mouthwash. As always, the best approach is to not drive if you’ve drank alcohol.
Myths about drinking and driving:
- False: eating absorbs alcohol so it’s ok to have one or two drinks with a meal
- False: coffee or water sobers you up
- False: a cold shower sobers you up
- False: being in the fresh air gets alcohol out your system more quickly.
If you see someone get into their car after drinking - you should take action
If it’s someone you know then perhaps the polite suggestion of calling a taxi might do it. However, if it’s a stranger, or you don’t feel safe confronting your friend, then you can either alert the bar or security staff or call the police. Before you call the police make sure you have a note of:
- the car registration number
- description of the person
- description of the vehicle
The breathalyser never gets it wrong
If the police want to check whether you’re over the drink drive limit, they’ll do a breathalyser test at the roadside.
If you fail the test, or refuse to take it, you’ll be arrested and taken to the police station and asked to provide a further two breath specimens into a more advanced breathalyser. If you fail, or continue to refuse, you will be charged and this evidence could then be used to prosecute later down the line. Refusal can also lead to your car being forfeited.
It is an offence to refuse the blood test. A driver convicted of a first or second drink-driving offence can face a prison term of up to three months or a fine of up to $4,500 and lose their driver licence for six months or more.
SADD is a peer-education programme that has been running in NZ for almost 20 years.
SADD aims to reduce the harm caused on our roads by dangerous drivers. The education programme is run in secondary schools by students, independent of the school curriculum, and is open to any student of any year.