On 1 December 2014 new breath and blood alcohol limits for
drivers will become law in New Zealand, reducing the breath alcohol
limit for adult drivers 20 years and over from 400 micrograms (mcg)
of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg, and the blood alcohol
limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.
Once the new law comes into effect, drivers who fail an
evidential breath test with a reading of between 251 and 400mcg of
alcohol per litre of breath will receive an infringement notice
with a $200 infringement fee and 50 demerit points. These drivers
will not be able to elect an evidential blood test.
Drivers who fail an evidential breath test with a reading over
400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath will still be able to elect
an evidential blood test, and will continue to face criminal
What do the new limits mean in practice?
Given that there are a number of factors that affect the amount of
alcohol an individual can consume while remaining under the breath
and blood alcohol limits, including body type, gender, weight and
how much food they have consumed, the safest course is not to
consume any alcohol if you intend to drive. That said, many people
will continue to drink in moderation and then drive. According to
the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), most
people will be able to drink two standard drinks over the course of
two hours and still remain under the new adult drink-driving
One standard drink is:
330ml of 4% alcohol beer; or
100ml of 13% alcohol wine; or
32ml of 40% alcohol spirits.
If you are an employer this new law will have some impact on
your business, particularly if you have employees that are required
to drive during the course of their employment; or if you provide
employees with alcoholic drinks during work organised social
functions. Because of this, you should consider:
Updating the drink-driving provisions in your current
employment agreements, and your drug and alcohol and vehicle
policies, to ensure that your expectations are clear and that the
risk of drink-driving to your business is properly managed. For
example, many employment agreements require employees to notify
their employer if convicted of a criminal offence, however as the
infringement notice for failing an evidential breath test with a
reading of between 251 and 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath
will not be a conviction, employees may argue that they are not
obliged to inform their employer if they receive one of these
infringement notices. This may in turn have implications for things
like your work vehicle insurance;
how you protect your business from the risk of your employees
having their driving licence suspended due to receiving demerit
points from breaching the new law; and
whether you need to make any changes to how you manage employer
arranged social events, like Friday night drinks or work Christmas
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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