Drink driving Drink driving
Alcohol-related crashes are a significant road safety issue in New Zealand. We are 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.
Sort your safe ride home before you head out
Auckland is now a Vision Zero region which means we are committed to no deaths or serious injuries on Tāmaki Makaurau roads by 2050.
Alcohol contributes to around 30% of New Zealand's fatal road crashes. AT and NZ Police are working to change driver behaviour in both urban and rural Auckland communities to reduce death and trauma caused by drink driving.
Even after one drink, you’ll be putting yourself and others at risk.
While people may make plans for the night ahead, we want them to make sure that their game plan is complete and to sort a safe ride home before they head out. No night out is complete without a safe plan to get home.
Game Plan complete. Sort your safe ride home before you head out.
Use public transport
We want 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.
Plan your journey home with the Journey Planner.
Find a bus, train or ferry timetable using AT Mobile for iPhone or Android.
Get a taxi
There are a range of taxis 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
Whether you’ve had a few beers at the Boat club or went to that festival in the city, you can always rely on someone to pick you up when you’ve had a drink.
If you live in a more rural area where there is little to no public transport or getting a taxi costs too much, this is a great option. Especially if you take turns on being a sober legend to get your friends or whānau home safe.
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 laws in New Zealand
Drink driving is an issue for all ages.
Alcohol/drug related DSI (Deaths and Serious injuries) make up 32% of the total Auckland DSI. Alcohol is the second biggest contributing factor to road crashes in New Zealand, after speed. In Auckland between 2017 and 2021 there were 91 deaths and 520 serious injuries in the Auckland region due to alcohol and drugs whilst driving.
AT promotes a zero-alcohol policy towards drinking and driving and actively promotes people to plan how they will get home. Any amount of alcohol consumed can impair a driver’s judgement, focus and reactions times.
Essentially there is no safe limit when driving.
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 2 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 3 months or a fine of up to $4,500 and lose their driver licence for 6 months or more.
Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD)
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.