The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC) is delighted a zero alcohol limit for teenage drivers will apply from tomorrow.

The Committee, which works under the umbrella of the Health Quality & Safety Commission, reviews deaths of children and young people aged 28 days to 24 years, to find ways to prevent deaths in the future. Every year about 130 young people aged 15 to 24 years die from unintentional injury related to motor vehicles. Alcohol contributes to more than a third of these deaths.

The Committee says imposing a zero limit for drinking and driving by teens will give absolute clarity that any alcohol is too much to allow safe driving, and help turn New Zealand’s grim statistics around.

Chair Dr Nick Baker says “We need to put as much separation as possible between the processes of young people learning how to drink alcohol responsibly and learning how to drive safely. We tend to underestimate the years it takes to develop driving skills, and alcohol causes a greater impairment in young people, at lower levels, than for older people.”

The Committee notes that it is common for women under 24 and young men between 15 and 19 to die because of alcohol consumed by other people. It is hoped the new law can help potential passengers by making it clear that if a driver under 20 has had any alcohol it is unsafe and the driver is breaking the law.

The owners of vehicles also have an important role to keep young people safe by not letting them use vehicles if they have consumed alcohol. The new law will make boundary setting clearer and vehicle owners will be aware that their insurance cover may be impacted if their vehicle is damaged when being driven by a young driver who has consumed any alcohol.

Dr Nick Baker says “The combination of motor vehicles and alcohol is a major contributor to death and permanent injury in our young people. We must all work to keep young people safe around the most dangerous thing in their lives – motor vehicles.”

For further information see the attached report and  transport.govt.nz/saferjourneys. See in particular Figure 8 on page 30.

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