Girl TORQUE: Drink Driving

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

I’m puzzled by the government’s decision to hold off on reducing the drink-drive limit. And not just because there’s plentiful convincing research to indicate that it will make a difference to crashes on the road. After all, the roading environment and driving culture may vary from country to country, but humans are the same the world over, and their bodies react the same to drugs whether they live in Tauranga or Timbuktu.

What puzzles me is the fact our government is willing to lose a few lives, to inflict a bit of serious injury in order to avoid inconveniencing folk who’d like to drink quite a lot and drive.

Perhaps it wants to avoid looking like a nanny state by telling us how much we can drink and still get behind the wheel. But it’s already doing that. What we’re arguing about where to draw the line.

The law, and therefore our government, says you can have quite a few drinks (the actual number taking you over the limit depends on your size) and still take charge of a couple of tons of steel.

Yet one drink can affect your ability to make decisions, and it’s downhill from there.

Now, you can argue that it’s the worst drink-drivers that cause most of the crashes, the ones who will never get the message. And perhaps that’s true. But if it’s your daughter who’s being cut out of her car with a spinal injury, it won’t make any difference to her prognosis whether a recidivist who’s way over the limit hit her, or a businessman who’s just under it and who made a bad driving decision after a few beers. Sorry, two bad driving decisions – the first one being to drive at all after drinking.

You could also point fingers at the police for ‘over targeting’ drink and speed and ignoring other dangerous driving behaviours.

I’m sorry, if you have a beef with the cops trying to keep drunk drivers off the road, you’ve clearly never seen how drunk a person is at the limit, and never been in a crash, or you’d know exactly what risk it is that you’re being so casual about.

One publisher is running a ‘two drinks max’ campaign, which has drawn a lot of flack. It’s grandstanding to sell papers, it’s self-righteous, it’s still drinking and driving. All no doubt true, but at least it’s encouraging New Zealanders to think; to draw a line in the sand that’s easy to understand and to follow and which will keep those who stick to it at the safer end of the scale.

It’s safer to set your limit live with it than to calculate times, food amounts, whether you’re tired or not… hard enough when you’re sober, let alone after a drink or two.

As a professional driver I don’t think anyone should get behind the wheel after drinking, and I think most people would agree with me if they thought a little harder.

Would you want your pilot to have a few drinks before flying you to Fiji? Your surgeon to quaff a beer then lift that scalpel? Most people wouldn’t even get a haircut from someone who’d down a few wines before wielding those scissors.

So why drink and drive?

Read past Girl TORQUE columns here.