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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 matters are dealt with by a court.  Upon conviction the driver will be disqualified from driving for at least three months, and can receive either a fine of up to $2,250 or imprisonment for up to three months. 

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.  Upon convictin the driver will be disqualified from driving for at least six months, and can receive either a fine of up to $4,500 or imprisonment for up to three months. If the driver is found to have a BAC of more than 0.13 then, in addition to the above penalties, their driver’s licence will be suspended at the roadside for 28 days.

If any person drives while their licence is suspended then, in addition to being charged with breaching a Police officer's direction, 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.  A zero BAC level recognises that even small amounts of alcohol for young drivers can impair driving.  It also sends a clear message that drinking and driving do not mix.

For young drivers the task of driving is more demanding than for older, 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. 

The following table shows the total numbers killed or seriously injured in a road crash over the period 2010 to 2012 where at least one of the drivers involved was aged 15-19. The table also shows the numbers killed or seriously injured in a road crash involving at least one driver aged 15-19 where alcohol was suspected, or proven in that driver. 

Death and serious injuries in crashes where at least one driver involved was aged 15-19
 
 Year
Casualties in crashes in which at least one driver was aged 15-19
 
Casualties in crashes with alcohol suspected/proven for driver aged 15-19 
 
Deaths Serious injuries Deaths  Serious injuries
 2012 28  294  13  70 
 2011 37  335  16  86 
 2010 74  475  29  129 

This includes all casualties in the crash - the young drivers themselves, their passengers and other road users injured in the crash.

Alcohol here is alcohol or drugs.

The zero BAC for drivers aged under 20 came into effect on 7 August 2011.

More information

The zero BAC for drivers under 20 was introduced through the Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2011. Read more information here.

 

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