Drinking and driving is a serious problem in New Zealand. Official estimates place alcohol or drugs as a major factor in 33 percent of all driving-related fatalities, 23 percent of all serious injuries and 14 percent of all minor injuries. New Zealand drunk driving laws carry serious penalties for those who violate them. Citizens and tourists alike would do well to familiarize themselves with the law to avoid ending up on the wrong side of it.
New Zealand sets strict limits on the amount of alcohol a driver may drink before getting behind the wheel of a car. For those under the age of 20, any amount of drinking will put you over the legal limit. For drivers over the age of 20, the acceptable blood alcohol content is .08. It is difficult to determine how many drinks cause a person to go over the legal limit, as factors such as gender, size and the amount of food eaten cause variations. The New Zealand Transport Agency strongly advises all drivers to totally abstain from drinking to remain legally sober.
When stopped by a police officer, you must submit to testing in New Zealand. First, you will be asked to take a passive breath test. This involves speaking into a device that determines if you have recently consumed alcohol. If you fail this test, you will be asked to take a breath screening test to determine the relative amount of alcohol you have consumed. If you test positive for high levels of alcohol consumption, you will be asked to take a third test, the evidential breath test. This test provides a precise reading of your blood alcohol level and can be submitted as evidence in court. You may also be required to take a blood test.
Those who refuse to take a roadside sobriety test may be arrested. Those who blow high levels of alcohol will have their keys confiscated in addition to being required to submit to additional testing. Jail time for first and second refusals to take a sobriety test run as high as three months with subsequent refusals resulting in as many as two years in prison.
Your first and second convictions for driving under the influence may result in prison sentences of up to three months. Additionally, you will be fined as much as NZ$4,500 and lose your license for at least six months. Third offenses (and all subsequent offenses) carry jail time of up to two years, fines of up to NZ$6,000 and a loss of driving privileges for at least a year.