How to Save Lives
To prevent future deaths the following changes are required to laws and regulations:
- An Enforced Lifetime Driving Ban for Recidivists. The public roads are not the place to treat addictions, and it should never be an option for a repeatedly convicted driver to drive. Consequently New Zealand needs to permanently remove repeat impaired drivers from our road. We believe these people have no respect for the life of others and present a clear danger to all road users. A life-time ban for third-time offenders is required. If this ban is ignored incarceration as a preventative measure is required. Currently there are over 3,000 repeat drunk drivers on our roads with at least three convictions. Many offenders have 12 or more drunk driving convictions.
- Permanent removal of a vehicle for second time offenders. Currently the law allows for a 28 day impoundment of a car for a repeat offender (with two convictions within four years). On day 29 they get their vehicle back. As repeat offending is a clear indicator of addiction and sometimes denial, it makes little sense and is very dangerous, to return a vehicle.
- Improved legislation for impaired drivers that kill . The Land Transport Act 1998 (and amendments) needs to be updated. The law is weak in several areas, with minimalist penalties. Currently many drunk drivers who kill are charged with excess alcohol causing death, with a rarely enforced maximum penalty of five years. With stronger legislation impaired drivers that kill could be charged with manslaughter and murder, or with longer penalties they could be kept off our roads longer. In part this could act as a deterant, but more importantly it is for public safety.
- Recognition of killing with a car as a violent crime. When a person is killed by a drunk or drugged driver they are not considered a victim of violent crime when the killer is charged with excess alcohol causing death (under the Land Transport Act 1998). The killing is considered a serious traffic offence, not a violent crime. In New Zealand most impaired drivers are convicted of excess alcohol causing death, and not manslaughter. This needs to change; all those killed or seriously injured by an impaired driver in New Zealand should be considered the victim of violent crime.
- Early Intervention. Compulsory alcohol and drug problem assessment and comprehensive treatment for first and second time offenders is necessary. Although treatment often does not work, it could prevent many impaired drivers developing into recidivists. Currently very few impaired drivers are assessed and treated and many residential rehabilitation programmes have closed down in New Zealand.
- Adoption of Technology. The introduction of alcohol interlocking devices is long overdue. These devices are proven as prentative and educational tools that stop an impaired driver from starting their vehicle. They are proven to have saved lives, and are particularly successful at reducing recidivism. New Zealand stands out as being one nation that has not introduced this technology. New Zealand’s Minister for Transport Safety recently said (July 2007) that he is not interested in introducing alcohol-interlocking systems for repeat offenders in New Zealand.