Safer Journeys younger driver package

What were the provisions from the Safer Journeys younger driver package?

The Amendment Act raised the licensing age from 15 to 16 and makes provision for the NZ Transport Agency to strengthen the restricted licence test.

Information on the change to the licensing age and the strengthening of the restricted licence test is available at the NZ Transport Agency website(external link)

Safer Journeys alcohol actions and review of penalties causing death

What were the provisions from the Safer Journeys alcohol package and review of penalties for causing death?

The Amendment Act made the following changes that support these Safer Journeys packages:

  • Lower the youth drink drive limit for drivers under 20 years of age from Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) 0.03 (30 mgs of alcohol per 100 mLs of blood) to BAC zero.
  • Impose a 3-year zero BAC licence for repeat drink drive offenders following a period of disqualification, or following completion of an alcohol interlock penalty.
  • Impose infringement offences and the associated infringement penalties (fines and demerit points) for the breach of youth zero drink drive limits.
  • Allow Courts the option to require repeat or serious drink drive offenders to use alcohol interlocks, after a mandated 3 month disqualification.
  • Interlocks must be used for at least 12 months, and can only be removed where the offender shows a violation-free period of 6 months (reducing to 3 months if an approved alcohol assessment is also completed) and offenders will be subject to a zero BAC licence for the 3 years after the removal of their interlock.
  • Increase the maximum penalty from 5 years imprisonment to 10 years for the following driving offences causing death:
    • Drunk or drugged driving
    • Unauthorised street racing
    • Dangerous driving
    • Reckless driving

Action - Lower the legal drink drive limit for drivers under 20 years of age from 0.03 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to zero

Read questions and answers on the zero BAC for drivers under 20 years of age.

Action – repeat drink drivers will be subject to a BAC zero limit licence for 3 years after they receive their licence back following a period of disqualification

When will this be in place?

Changes to the licensing system will need to be made first, once these are completed this provision will come into force. This action will complement the proposed interlock action and the existing sanctions of licence disqualification, fines and prison terms. It will work with these sanctions to help change behaviour by encouraging drivers with drink driving convictions to not consume any alcohol before driving.

It is estimated that a zero BAC licence for offenders could save 1 life and 13 injuries every year. This equates to an annual social cost saving of $5.4 million.

Who will this apply to?

It is proposed that a zero BAC licence will be imposed on repeat drink drive offenders.

How long will a zero BAC licence apply for?

Three years from when the offender re-applies for, and receives, their driver licence from the NZ Transport Agency.

Will this be used in conjunction with licence disqualification and alcohol interlocks?

Yes. This will increase the effectiveness of the existing sanction of licence disqualification and the new action of alcohol interlocks by encouraging drivers with drink driving convictions to not consume any alcohol before driving.

How will police enforce this?

It is planned that repeat drink drive offenders will be provided with a drivers licence that shows they are subject to a zero drink drive limit. The costs of this licence will be met by offenders. All drivers with positive results at breath testing operations will have to produce their licence. Penalties will be introduced for failing to produce a zero limit licence to ensure that offenders do not try to avoid prosecution this way.

How many people will be affected by this?

If drink drive offenders continue to offend at rates similar to the past three years, then it is estimated that around 7500 repeat offenders could be required to have a zero BAC licence.

What will the penalties be for failing to meet a zero limit?

Penalties for breaches of the zero limit up to the current adult drink drive limit of BAC 0.08 will be the same as those for breaches of the youth drink drive limit. That is a maximum fine of $2,250 and minimum disqualification of 3 months and 50 demerit points, or a maximum prison term of 3 months. Breaches above BAC 0.08 could incur a maximum fine of $6,000, licence disqualification of at least a year, or a maximum prison term of two years.

Will 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.

Action – allow courts the option to require repeat or serious drink drive offenders to use alcohol interlocks after a mandated 3 month disqualification.

What is an alcohol interlock?

An alcohol interlock is a device similar to a breathalyser that is connected into a vehicle’s starting system. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must give a breath test. If the analysed result is over the pre-programmed breath-alcohol level the vehicle will not start. Interlocks will be effectively set for a BAC zero limit.

Image showing example of alcohol interlock installed in a vehicleAn example of alcohol interlock installed in a vehicle

Who will have to use them?

Repeat drink drive offenders plus first time offenders convicted of a high level excess blood alcohol offence (that is BAC 0.16 or higher) could be given an alcohol interlock disqualification at the discretion of the courts. Following the mandated 3 month disqualification, the offender could apply for an alcohol interlock licence, which would restrict them to driving a vehicle with an interlock device fitted.

How much alcohol will a driver have to drink for their vehicle to be immobilised?

Alcohol interlocks would require sober driving. Following the term of the interlock, the zero limit for repeat offenders would then require interlock users to drive sober for a further three years. This is to encourage repeat offenders to change behaviour by not consuming any alcohol before driving.

Who will pay for interlocks?

In all other jurisdictions alcohol interlock programmes operate on a user pays basis and so offer a cost-effective way of responding to drink driving. There would, however, be costs to government with implementing and administering an interlock programme. The government will also be investigating how the scheme could include a self-funded subsidy.

It is estimated that when the interlock programme reaches a 60 percent participation rate it could save one to two lives and prevent 25 injuries each year. This equates to an estimated reduction in the annual social cost of road injuries of $10 million.

How will low income earners afford alcohol interlocks?

The cost of an interlock could be a barrier to participating in the programme for some people. Many other jurisdictions offer participants a subsidy for their interlock. Transport officials are looking at funding models from other jurisdictions to help with decisions on how best to implement interlocks in New Zealand. Any subsidy could be self funded ie, paid for by other participants.

How long will an offender need to use an interlock for?

An offender will have a 3 month disqualification period before being able to apply for an interlock for a minimum mandatory 12 month interlock period. Offenders would need to have then had a violation free period of either 3 months with an alcohol assessment or 6 months violation free before they could apply to have it removed. Provided they met these criteria the interlock may be removed and the offender would be eligible to apply for a Zero BAC licence (a licence fee will apply). Criteria will also be set to allow for the removal in special circumstances (eg if the vehicle is sold or crashed). An offender sentenced to an interlock cannot have the interlock removed until they are fully compliant with the violation-free period.

Will interlocks replace current penalties for drink drive offenders?

Current penalties for drink driving will remain. An interlock sentence will be available at the discretion of the courts. There will be some instances where an alcohol interlock will not be appropriate such as cases where the offender is unlicensed, a serious repeat offender or has caused a crash resulting in serious injury or death or lost their licence due to drugs.

Do alcohol interlocks really work?

Overseas research on interlock programmes suggests that interlocks are a successful alternative to licence disqualification in preventing repeat impaired driving offences while they are installed. A number of jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe have interlock programmes for drink drive offenders.

Can people tamper with interlocks so that they can still drive their car while impaired?

Alcohol interlocks have anti-circumvention measures built into them. Most attempts to tamper with an interlock will immobilise the vehicle. In some cases the vehicle will remain immobile until the interlock is reset by an approved service agent.

Penalties would be created for tampering or attempting to tamper with an interlock. These would apply to both the driver and any third parties. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $3,000.

What’s to stop people from getting someone sober to blow into the interlock for them?

Alcohol interlocks have safeguards built into them to prevent this. Decisions on which options are used to prevent this will need to be considered as part of the implementation of an interlock programme for New Zealand. In addition, there is a penalty for any attempts to circumvent the system or mis-use the interlock on behalf of the driver.

Do other countries use alcohol interlocks?

A number of jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe have interlock programmes for drink drive offenders. Interlocks have been used in the United States for 30 years.

Action - Increase penalties for dangerous driving causing death

What is the increase to the penalties for dangerous driving type offences causing death?

The Amendment Act doubled the maximum term of imprisonment for drink or drugged driving, dangerous or reckless driving, illegal street racing causing death and fleeing the scene of an accident in which a person has died. The maximum term of imprisonment for these offences was raised from five to ten years.

This change reflected the seriousness of the offences, and brought the current penalties in line with other similar offences and the penalties imposed in other jurisdictions.
Changes apply to the following driving offences causing death:

  • drunk or drugged driving
  • unauthorised street racing
  • dangerous driving
  • reckless driving

Why was this change necessary?

A review of penalties for causing death found they were too low when compared with penalties for other crimes. This view has also been expressed by the public and judges. These changes ensure the penalties are in line with those for similar offences.

What does dangerous driving mean?

Dangerous driving offences cover a range of behaviours. These could include drunk or drugged drivers, overtaking traffic in places where there is a double yellow line. Reckless driving refers to driving behaviours that intentionally put road users at risk, such as speeding through an intersection without regard for the give way rules or driving on the wrong side of the road.

What are the penalties for other offences that cause death and injury?

It is difficult to directly compare dangerous driving offences with other offences that result in serious injury and harm to others. In dangerous driving cases the legal test is one of gross negligence or recklessness rather than deliberate intent. However, the road safety impacts of dangerous driving are extremely severe and can include multiple deaths and very serious injuries. For this reason, penalties that are on a par with those for violent offences are justified in the worst cases. For example the maximum penalty for causing serious injury with intent to injure or with reckless disregard (s188(2) Crimes Act) is 7 years imprisonment.

What are the penalties for similar offences in other jurisdictions?

Penalties in other countries vary, but on the whole they are higher than New Zealand’s penalties. This could be explained partly by the fact that New Zealand prosecutors continue to have the option of charging a driver with manslaughter if the circumstances warrant it. The following are examples from other jurisdictions:

  • United Kingdom – maximum 14 years imprisonment for dangerous driving or drink driving causing death
  • United States – varies from state to state but on average the maximum terms of imprisonment for traffic offending causing death are between 15-20 years in prison
  • Australia – varies from state to state but usually between 14-20 years imprisonment
  • Japan – maximum 20 years imprisonment for drink driving causing death
  • Canada (Ontario) – maximum 14 years imprisonment for dangerous driving causing death.

When were these penalties last reviewed?

Fines for these offences have been reviewed in recent years prior to the Amendment Act but the imprisonment aspect of these penalties had not changed since 1962.

Miscellaneous provisions

What is the 28-day licence suspension?

Those caught committing certain serious driving offences that put the lives of other road users at risk can have their licence suspended by Police, on the spot, for 28 days.

Offences where 28-day licence suspension apply:

  • It is the driver’s second (or subsequent) drink driving offence within four years.
  • The driver’s breath alcohol concentration exceeds 650 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, or a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 130 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
  • The driver failed or refused to undergo a blood test when requested or required to do so.
  • The driver exceeded a permanent posted speed limit by more than 40km an hour, or any other speed limit by more than 50km an hour.

Why was it being extended?

In some cases, the 28-day period can pass before an offender is charged and they are allowed to resume driving. Police can now seek an extension of the 28-day period where special circumstances exist. An extension of the period would be granted by the Court on application from Police.

This use of the extension period is unlikely to be used often, but is useful to ensure offenders don’t pose a road safety risk in cases where the original 28-day period has lapsed.

What happens if charges are dropped?

The licence suspension would cease immediately if charges are dropped.

What were the amendments to the work time regime?

Changes were made to ensure provisions in the regime are better defined and there is less ambiguity (eg the definition of ‘work time’ is clarified). Other changes are as follows:

  • Offences were widened to cover drivers who have not taken a continuous period of rest time of at least ten hours. This allows Police to prove the time at which a workday commenced and will make it easier to enforce other work time offences.
  • Penalties for work time breaches were clarified so that the licence disqualification penalty applies to all vehicle categories subject to work time limits.
  • Police can now obtain search warrants in order to obtain evidence to prove breaches of Chain of Responsibility requirements by parties other than drivers. This includes employers but also companies which engage truck companies but set unrealistic schedules requiring drivers to speed or breach work hours.
  • Work time and logbook offences can be better enforced through a removal of the current 6 month statute bar that applies to these offences. This corrected an oversight when the current system was introduced in 2007 and returns it to the situation that applied prior to 2007.

Why was there a need for Police to have search warrants to investigate alleged breaches of Chain of Responsibility provisions?

This measure provided Police with better tools to assist owner-drivers who claim they are forced to exceed work time limits or speed in order to meet contract requirements.

In many inquiries into these offences Police were unable to obtain evidence of offending where this involves alleged actions on the part of a third party, who is not the driver’s employer. This could include a transport operator’s client such as a freight forwarder.

The same requirements that the Police must currently satisfy when seeking a search warrant will apply to these search warrants.

Does this place extra responsibility on businesses that use transport operators?

There are no additional responsibilities for third parties such as those who hire transport operators. However, they need to ensure they meet their current responsibilities under Chain of Responsibility legislation and do not put unrealistic demands on transport operators or drivers. Doing so puts the driver and other road users at risk.

What were the minor technical amendments to the legislation around the driver licence reinstatement fee?

These amendments closed a loophole in existing legislation to ensure all offenders who are disqualified or have their licence suspended pay the required reinstatement fee. This is important so that these offenders pay their fair share of the costs associated with re-issuing of their licence.

What were the amendments to allow a more flexible approach to adopting new devices for taking blood specimens for drink and drug driving enforcement purposes?

These amendments allow the use of vacutainers in future for taking blood specimens. A vacutainer is a device for extracting blood samples that is less prone to causing needle stick injuries than syringes. Prior to the Amendment Act, the wording in the Land Transport Act was based on the assumption that only syringes will be used to extract blood specimens.

To be used for collecting blood specimens for drink or drugged driving enforcement purposes, vacutainers will have to meet all requirements relating to the handling, transportation, storage and analysis of the specimen, and Police prosecutions.

What were the amendments to improve accountability for towing and storage costs of unclaimed impounded vehicles?

These amendments help to ensure storage providers are not out of pocket for the towing and storage costs of impounded vehicles.

The Police can impound vehicles for some traffic offences. These vehicles are held by approved private sector storage providers and, once the impoundment period has lapsed, offenders can collect them on payment of towing and storage fees. However, many of these vehicles are unclaimed. Storage providers can attempt to recover the unpaid fees based on the details in theMotor Vehicle Register but the Motor Vehicle Register is not proof of title and many offenders claim they had sold the vehicle and avoid having to pay.

The change means that the person registered as owner at the time the vehicle is impounded can be held liable for costs to ensure they are accountable and to avoid ‘sham’ transactions.

What was the minor technical amendment to the Summary Proceedings Act 1957, Schedule 1 Part 2 to include all relevant offences?

This amendment corrected an oversight in legislation and ensured that all drug driving offences can be heard summarily (ie heard by a Judge alone), as well as indictably (ie heard before a jury). Prior to the Amendment Act, legislation allowed this for all drink driving offences and all but two drug driving offences.

Parking warden powers

What changes were made to parking wardens’ powers

The only change to these powers was to allow them to enforce special vehicle lane offences. Prior to the Amendment Act, this power was given to them by appointment from Police. The Amendment Act also meant parking wardens’ powers are exercised through the Land Transport Act rather than the Transport Act 1962.

Why did the Transport Act 1962 need to be repealed?

Very little of New Zealand’s current transport law was still contained in the Transport Act 1962. Transferring provisions to the Land Transport Act and repealing the 1962 Act helped to streamline New Zealand’s land transport law by ensuring relevant laws are not spread across separate pieces of legislation.

Transport bylaws

What change was being made to Road Controlling Authorities’ powers?

Very little change was made but there were some changes to streamline and extend the process for making bylaws for Road Controlling Authorities. This allowed them to make bylaws to restrict motor vehicle access to paper roads where there are safety or environmental concerns. In addition, it clarified their bylaw making powers around engine braking and the use of vehicles on beaches. Standard safeguards such as the Minister of Transport’s ability to amend, replace or disallow bylaws continue to apply.

Provisions to enhance the effectiveness of existing Land Transport Act provisions

What is a 6 month statute bar?

This is a legislative requirement that prevents a person being prosecuted if more than 6 months have passed since an offence was allegedly committed. Statute bars apply to all laws that do not specify otherwise.

Why was there a need to remove the 6 month statute bar for bringing a prosecution against someone who provides false details to an enforcement officer?

In many of these cases, it can be more than 6 months before a complaint is made to the police. This is because the innocent party, whose details have been misused, may be unaware this has happened until the courts takes action (eg seizes property for non-payment of a fine). The statute bar would have prevented offenders from facing prosecutions in these cases.

Why was there a need to change the law to allow Police to produce a certificate from the transport licensing system or a print off from the Police computer to the Courts?

This helped reduce the need to call witnesses for cases that are before the Court. This can help reduce Court costs without impacting on the quality of evidence. A defendant can challenge the contents of the certificate.

Why were the Minister’s Rule-making powers around operator safety and licensing changed?

This was to allow for measures to support the Operator Safety Rating System which will give heavy vehicle operators ratings based on their safety performance. These measures allow the Minister to make a Rule requiring other information (eg environmental data) to be published as well as safety information. They also allow the Minister to make a Rule to allow incentives for companies that have a good safety record.

It’s important to note that there no current plans to extend the Operator Safety Rating System in this way, but this enables Rules to be made to do this if there was a need for it in the future.

Why was there a need to allow foreign licences to be seized by Police when a driver is subject to 28-day roadside suspension?

Prior to the Amendment Act, it was unclear whether foreign licence holders could have their licence seized when they face 28-day roadside suspension. This sent a mixed message about whether the offender is allowed to continue driving, compared with a New Zealand licence holder whose licence was removed. This measure made it fairer by clarifying this aspect and ensuring all licence holders face the same sanctions.

Why was there a need to amend the provisions about who may take blood in a hospital or doctor's surgery?

Prior to the Amendment Act, the law hindered doctors’ ability to take blood when drugged or drink driving was suspected. It specified that blood could only be taken by a doctor, nurse or medical laboratory technologist instructed to do so by the doctor in charge. In some cases this requirement created significant delays which impact on blood test results. The changes to this do not reduce the clinical obligations for doctors, but remove unnecessary delays.

Did the change to the gazette requirements for breath test notices mean that breath tests will change?

No, there are no current plans for a change to the breath tests, this change was to ensure that requirements are clarified if any changes are made in the future.

Why were there changes made to the requirements for the Police Commissioner to be notified of the approved laboratory by a person taking a blood specimen?

This reduced the paperwork for medical professionals when blood needs to be taken for a drink or drugged driving offence. Prior to the Amendment Act, a person taking a blood specimen needed to fill out forms to notify the Police Commissioner of the approved laboratory the blood sample will be going to. This was despite there only being one approved laboratory. This requirement is removed unless there is another approved laboratory. This change reduces complications and costs for medical professionals.

Why were changes made to the time a suspension takes effect for transport service drivers, driving instructors or testing officers?

This ensures a suspension for a driver who poses a risk to passengers or other road users takes place immediately. Prior to the Amendment Act, suspensions for these offenders did not apply until 28 days after the notice is served. An affected driver still has the right to have their suspension tested in Court.

Provisions to enhance the effectiveness of Land Transport Rule-making

What affect do these changes have on the Rule-making process?

These changes allow Rule changes to be made by order in council where immediate changes are needed. This can reduce costs and improve efficiency and is the standard process for secondary legislation such as Regulations. Changes also remove the need for a Rule to be Gazetted 28 days before it comes into force and allow more flexibility around the notification of a Rule coming into force.

These changes also improve efficiency as other methods of notifying the public have meant Gazetting and newspaper notices are not always appropriate for Rules that only affect industry or a small number of people. The NZ Transport Agency allows those with an interest in potential Rule changes to register on its website to receive updates. This can be done at: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/rules/about/registration.html(external link)

Why was there a need to allow for demerit points to remain for 2 years after the offence they apply to?

Prior to the Amendment Act, demerit points remained until two years had passed or the driver had their licence suspended or disqualified for a period of at least three months, whichever came first. There was no requirement for the disqualification to be related to the offence that earned them the demerits (eg a person may have demerits for speeding which are wiped when they receive a licence disqualification for drink driving). Removing this inconsistency ensures repeat traffic offenders face the full weight of the penalties they have incurred.

Why was there a need to allow a change to the amount of demerits that are wiped by a licence suspension?

There had been cases where offenders continued to incur demerits after already accumulating 100 demerits but before licence suspension was served. These excess demerits were then wiped. This change ensured these demerits still have a penalty value and that offenders face the full weight of the penalties they incur.

Why was there a need to allow more than one period of licence suspension to be imposed and to be served consecutively?

Prior to the Amendment Act, drivers who accumulated 100 or more demerit points had their licence suspended for a single 3-month period and all their demerit points were cleared.  However, there were cases where drivers continued to incur large numbers of demerits after already reaching 100 demerit points but before licence suspension had been served. This change will help ensure these drivers do not benefit by ensuring the licence suspension period for these drivers is longer.