25 Jan 2011

A third of road deaths caused by high-risk drivers

9:21 am on 25 January 2011

Disqualified, speeding, young or repeat drink-drivers cause a third of all road deaths, the Ministry of Transport says.

A ministry report says nearly 650 people were killed in crashes caused by high-risk drivers from 2005 to 2009.

Most unlicensed, drunk or speeding motorists are male and under 30, the ministry's figures show.

When figures on at-fault young drivers are added to those for the high-risk drivers, they cause more than half of all fatal crashes, and nearly half of fatal and serious injury crashes.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says a core of problem drivers is putting others at risk and the Government is taking steps to crack down on them.

The Government already has a bill going through Parliament, increasing the driving age to 16 and setting the blood alcohol limit to zero for drivers under 20.

Mr Joyce says he is hoping to bring more legislation in before this year's election, including setting vehicle power restrictions for young drivers.

However, the Automobile Association's general manager of motoring affairs, Mike Noon, says more more assessment and rehabilitation is needed.

Mr Noon says just fining a person or taking away their licence does not solve the problem.

Education 'crucial'

Road safety consultant Peter Sheppard says more emphasis on driver education is crucial to improving the country's crash statistics.

Mr Sheppard says in the past 20 or 30 years driver education has been considered less important than enforcement or vehicle engineering.

But he says legislation the Government plans to introduce later this year will increase the amount of driver education required to get a drivers licence.