On the spot - take action immediately
Stopping someone from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking could save their life and the lives of innocent others.
If it is an emergency - call 111 and provide the details to emergency services.
If it is safe to do so, take their keys off them and offer to find them a safe ride home.
If the risk of drink driving is associated with a licensed premise - advise the licensee or duty manager of the risk and remind them of their duties to support safe transport options.
If the person has been drinking on a licensed premise and appears intoxicated then report the incident to the local licensing team and/or Police. See the Licensing section for more information.
Be a positive role model
Always drive sober and encourage members of your family/whanau to do likewise.
If you are hosting a family/whanau gathering or event, be a responsible host – e.g. make it alcohol-free, or have a range of alcohol-free options available, arrange a place for people to stay or a safe ride home if they’ve been drinking. See Places and Events for more information on planning events.
Spread the word
Take opportunities as they arise to discuss drink-driving, its risks and consequences with your family/whanau.
Develop some safety protocols/kawa with your family/whānau. These can focus on how to avoid the risks of drinking and driving, and having a plan to get home safely should that be necessary.
Start a group or if you are already part of a group or network you can plan initiatives to reduce drinking and driving in your community. For more information on doing this see Mobilising Others.
Assist people to get the help they need
If you have any concerns about someone you know who is drinking and driving assist them or their family to get professional help.
Help can be reached at your GP/local medical centre, school counsellor or local Community Alcohol and Drug Service.
The Alcohol and Drug Helpline is a useful starting point for anyone who has concerns about their own or others drinking. They will be able to support you towards the best course of action and local services including youth services - 0800 787 797.
Advocate to increase the number of random breath tests
To ensure our drink driving limits are effective, we need to enforce them. However, random breath test numbers have been declining substantially and we need to increase them to the point of one test per year per licensed driver. That would mean around 3 million tests per year. A lot more than what we are currently doing.
Speak to your local MP about this issue.
Change the wider environment to change our drinking culture
By reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, we can help reduce drink driving.
The most effective measures to reduce the amount we drink are listed below. Read each section to find out how you can take action on these environmental factors that support low-risk drinking.
You can mobilise others to:
New Zealand has a Vision Zero approach to road deaths - where no-one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes. This cannot be achieved without strong action on alcohol.
Drink driving doesn't just harm the driver - passengers and other road users (including pedestrians) are also killed or injured in alcohol-related road crashes.
Between 2017 and 2019, for every 100 alcohol or drug-impaired drivers or riders who died in road crashes, 27 of their passengers and 32 other road users died with them.
The risk of crashing increases with the amount of alcohol in the blood at the time of driving. Road traffic crashes involving alcohol are more likely to result in death or severe injuries.
On the spot - Address any immediate health and safety issues
If you are concerned about your safety, or that of others, call emergency services on 111.
When any urgent matters are under control and if you feel it is safe to do so, look to minimise any further consumption and risks. Get assistance with this if possible.
If you see an intoxicated person in a licensed premises (e.g pub, night club) alert the duty manager, and/or the Police on 111. If you know that an intoxicated person has been drinking at a particular licensed premises, then follow the above.
Spread the word - Promote informed choice
As opportunities arise guide people in your life to relevant information on alcohol and to the low-risk drinking guidelines.
Develop some safety protocols/kawa with your family/Whānau. These can focus on how to avoid drinking excessively, and what to do if they are in trouble.
If you have a group or network that you belong to, work together to raise awareness in your community about alcohol and share relevant information and links to low-risk drinking guidelines or other tools.
Assist people to get the help they need
If you have any concerns about the alcohol use of people in your life, assist them or their family to get professional help.
- Help can be reached at your GP/local medical centre, school counsellor or local Alcohol and Drug Service.
- The Alcohol and Drug Helpline is a useful starting point for anyone who has concerns about their own or others drinking. They will be able to support you towards the best course of action and local services including youth services - 0800 787 797.
Change the wider environment to change our drinking culture
Take action on environmental factors which support low-risk drinking. For example, foster and mobilise others to:
Alcohol is a toxin the body wants to get rid of
When alcohol is consumed, the human body is alerted and will start to eliminate it. The liver does much of this process.
It takes around one hour for a healthy liver to process a single standard drink. This is only an average, a person's other health issues will impact this.
Drinking more than one standard drink in an hour will mean that the liver cannot keep up, and the alcohol will build up and start to be absorbed into the blood stream.
This leads to a range of impairments;
- Initially, the drinker will experience light-headedness and feelings of euphoria – generally these are pleasant. They are the early signs of impairment.
- Balance and movement will be affected – increasing the risk of falls and other injuries.
- Slowed reaction times – slowing essential skills needed for driving, cooking, looking after children etc.
- Impaired judgement – increasing the risk of aggression, and making poor choices such as driving, or getting into a car with someone intoxicated, or continuing to drink, or having sex you later regret.
- Changed mood and emotional state – this can lead to missing or misinterpreting social cues increasing the risk of aggression and violence, depression.
- “Hangover” – the after effects of heavy drinking can carry over into the next day. This might affect the ability to attend work, school or university, look after children or other responsibilities.
Continued consumption can lead to black-outs and alcohol poisoning.
As well as injuries and violence, heavy consumption of alcohol can have significant and long-term effects on the body including brain damage, liver damage and failure.
The law on intoxication
New Zealand does not have any laws against being intoxicated or drunk. Rather, the Police can apprehend persons if they are creating disorder.
There are a number of offences related to intoxication. Most of these relate to licensed premises. You can read them here.
For example, a licensed premises MUST NOT:
- Sell or supply alcohol to an intoxicated person
- Allow a person to become intoxicated on their premises
- Allow a person who is intoxicated to remain in the licensed premises
In addition, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to be drinking in a public place (without their parent/guardian).
Factors which facilitate heavy drinking in New Zealand
There are a number of factors in our environment which facilitate heavy drinking:
- licensed premises open late at night and early morning,
- a high number of licensed premises in an area
- high exposure to alcohol marketing and promotion,
- cheap alcohol products
- certain types of products such as Ready-to-drinks (RTDs)
- availability of higher strength beverages.
Screening for hazardous drinking
The earlier we intervene on hazardous drinking, the less harm will result.
Ideally, everyone who is seen by a health practitioner should be screened for alcohol use, and if found to drink hazardously, provided with brief intervention and referral to treatment.
Intoxication increases the risk of a range of alcohol-related harms
Intoxication often leads to acute effects including violence, unintentional injuries and self-harm, but also longer terms harms such as long-term health conditions and social problems.
Skills and inhibitions decrease with more amount of alcohol is consumed on a single occasion. This often leads to a greater risk of injury during, or immediately, after the drinking occasion.
In 2019/20, among those who drank in the past year in New Zealand:
- 14.6% consumed 6 or more drinks on one occasion at least weekly
- 27.5% consumed 6 or more drinks on one occasion at least monthly
- 25.7% were classified as hazardous drinkers.
Drinking four standard drinks on a single occasion more than doubles the relative risk of an injury in the six hours afterwards, and the relative risk rises even more rapidly when more than four standard drinks are consumed on a single occasion.
The links below tell you what you need to know to reduce alcohol harm at public events.
Public events involving alcohol need to be well-managed.
Some events may pass with few or no alcohol-related problems, others can cause significant harm. Events that involve large numbers of people (such as horse races, music festivals, cricket and rugby/rugby league matches) can be particularly problematic.
Young people attending events must be protected from alcohol promotions and opportunities to consume alcohol.