'Sober drivers' face $10,000 fines

Dunedin 'sober drivers' face fines of $10,000 as police lose patience with the unlicenced service organised through Facebook.

Members of the 2100-strong Dunedin Sober Drivers Facebook group say the service is safer than walking and cheaper than a taxi.
Passengers pay fees or buy petrol in return for a ride.

But the group has come under fire from the New Zealand Taxi Federation which described the practice as illegal and called for a crackdown.

Dunedin police yesterday revealed they had been monitoring the group and had spoken to people who had been advertising on the page.

"It appears some of those people spoken to were genuinely unaware that this activity was illegal, when in fact they were operating an unlicensed passenger service. There were however others spoken to that are aware that this activity is illegal and they have been warned to

"This is a serious offence and for the first offence, it carries a maximum fine of $10,000. A second offence carries a maximum fine of $20,000 and the impoundment of your car," Dunedin police said in a Facebook post.

The post stressed that "there would be no further warnings and those caught operating as "taxis" (unlicensed passenger service) will be prosecuted and put before the court."

Police said they were concerned that passengers were getting into cars with people they didn't know who may be inexperienced behind the wheel or, in one recent case, a disqualified driver.

"The other issue relates to some female passengers who are getting into cars with unknown people. This too poses obvious safety risks. Several parents spoken to were also unaware that this practice is illegal or that their teenagers were taking part in it"

The post drew an instant response from Facebook users on the Dunedin Police page with more than 150 comments, most of them backing the sober driver service.



Stranger-danger rides

Sv3nno makes a guess that police "seem more worried about stranger danger scenarios". It's a possibility, but if so they have not been keeping up with stats. Strangers are indeed potentially dangerous but overall less so than family, associates and acquaintances. People accepting paid or unpaid rides from private drivers know these are not taxi drivers, they and their vehicles are not subject to the same checks and regulations and compliance. If police are not in the business of protecting the taxi business I suggest they could find more socially productive ways of using their time - or are they signalling that after all this time of shortages we now have a police force with more time than crime to bother about?

Rideshare vs taxi

Rideshare becomes a taxi if you charge a fee. I don't think the cops are targeting people who know each other giving mates rides and being given petrol money. They seem more worried about stranger danger scenarios.

Not all ride-shares are illegal

The illegal part is taking passengers in return for money. I am not clear if this applies only to those who advertise a service for a particular price, or if it also includes those who accept koha for giving a lift, informally arranged on a "share costs" basis between 2 or more people going to or from the same destination. I have seen advertisements asking for someone going to, say, Picton, to share driving and costs. Is this illegal? And does koha in the form of goods - fish, vegetables, loan of a concrete mixer - count in the same way as the IRD counts the value of a company car for personal use and other "perks" as income, if someone regularly gives a neighbour a lift to work?


So the great idea and promotion of ride share is 'illegal' then? Does that mean that two police officers riding in a car are 'guilty' of the very thing they claim is 'illegal' then? Or is it the one rule for them and one rule for us example? 

This is ludicrous

We give our neighbour's son a lift to the bus stop in the mornings and his mother collects ours in the afternoon. ie, we car share! Are we going to be arrested and fined? Is someone going to provide a bus service up over Saddle Hill maybe so we don't have to do this? No, I didn't think so. This is ludicrous. Sharing cars is a good idea - good for the environment, good for people. 

I'm no cabbie, but...

Cabbies pay exorbitant costs themselves to stay in business and hence the exorbitant fares. As a result of excessive law making they have been lumped with excessive costs and the rising cost of fuel and insurance, not to mention airport fees. Therefore either argue that we get rid of these costs so fares are cheaper, or accept that to legally be paid to transport people you need a passenger endorsement on your licence. The third option is the worst, and the one the cops really want us to take - don't drink alcohol.

Taxi Drivers

I doubt there are many in Dunedin who have not noticed the Taxi Drivers here, as well as mostly being very 'geriatric', seem to be exempt from most road rules.

As well as almost none of them wearing seatbelts at any time (and no, they are not exempt from wearing them, only when waiting for passengers), red lights, stop signs, give way, speed limits, and even pedetrian crossings seem to mean nothing to them.

Just last week I complained to one taxi company after I saw first hand a mobility services taxi literally speed through a red light. To date I have not even received an acknowledgement of my complaint, which highlights their arrogance here, somehow thinking my now resulting complaint to the LTSA will result in no action against them. We will see about that!

Though people should of course be wary who they get rides from, all power to helping stop drink driving, and all power to anything that gives the dinosaur-like Taxi Drivers a wake-up call!

Settle down

Will the Police just settle down, why are they making such a huge deal from this? Do they not have better things to do? Someone mentioned the law is the law, that is true but so is indicating and driving at the legal speed limit which a lot of Taxi drivers ignore. I wonder how many Taxis get ticketed as I have never seen it happen, are the Police protecting the Taxi drivers?

Not a good look

The number one priority - at all times - must be to keep intoxicated persons from driving. If this informal service helps to do this in any way, then the police must support it - at the very least by looking the other way. They have much more important jobs than monitoring social networks, and keeping all drink drivers off the road should be near the top of their list.

By the way, what is the fine for drink driving? I doubt it is anywhere near $10,000.


This simply has the appearance of an officially sanctioned protection racket for the cabbies.  It is unfortunate that the police don't uphold a service that is clearly wanted by the people and is designed to make the jails quieter over the holidays - perhaps that's exactly why they don't like it.

Dangerous rogue drivers

If you're at a meeting, at choir practice, in a volunteer group making posies for Anzac day, whatever you do don't accept a lift home from anyone and give them a couple of bucks for petrol because your home is well off their own route home and it's not as if they are well-off so you don't want them to be out-of-pocket for their kindness.  Wait several hours for a bus, or pay a fortune for a taxi instead. For all you know they may be unsuitable drivers who will assault and then dismember you, leaving your gruesome body parts strewn around the city and making extra work for the overworked police force when they could be chasing up sober drivers instead.  Show some consideration, folks.  The law is the law, it's there for a reason.  While away your wait for bus or taxi with a merry game trying to guess what that reason really is.

Police should reconsider priorities

Maybe if catching a taxi in this town wasn't such a headache and their prices weren't so exorbitant, there wouldn't be such a demand. Cab agencies ought to take a long hard look at their own business practices and poor service, and the police ought to reconsider their priorities. 


Will NZ Police now prosecute parents taking players in youth teams to away games in private vehicles who are not their own children? These dangerous criminals must be apprehended and brought to justice, given that all other serious crime has been solved and stamped out.

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