Group 'trying to stop deaths'

Dunedin Sober Drivers Save Lives supporters (from left) Ricki Pilley, of Mosgiel, Casey Walsh, of Dunedin, Antoine O'Leary, of Dunedin, Shannon Vigers, of Dunedin, Denise Crawford, of Mosgiel, Rebecca Gibb, of Dunedin, Cody Jeffery, of Dunedin, Linda Burt, of Dunedin, and Ange Vigers, of Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter. Lives could be saved from drink-driving crashes if police stopped threatening $10,000 fines and supported unlicensed passenger services, the creators of a Dunedin social media campaign say.

Cody Jeffery (22) and Rebecca Gibb (24) have gained 900 supporters since launching a Facebook page, Dunedin Sober Drivers Save Lives, on Tuesday night.

''We are just trying to stop the deaths from people drink-driving - we've had enough of it,'' Mr Jeffery said.

The campaign follows the deaths of Mosgiel siblings Danielle Ngametua Kiriau (17) and Shannon James Kiriau (22) in a car crash on the Southern Motorway in Dunedin early on Sunday.

In December, Dunedin police warned about 60 drivers who were offering passenger services organised on Facebook.

Passengers paid fees or bought petrol in return for a ride.

Mr Jeffery said yesterday the group wanted more, cheaper, options for people to get home.

He believed the law about passenger services was unclear.

''If someone picks up a hitchhiker from the side of the road and the hitchhiker flicked them $10 or $20 - or what they can afford for fuel - is the driver eligible for a $10,000 fine?''

The group was not trying to to take income away from taxi companies, he said.

But Dunedin police said they would never support a criminal activity and drivers and passengers using an unlicensed service faced hefty fines.

Dunedin road policing manager Senior Sergeant Phil McDouall said a driver must hold a passenger service licence to legally carry passengers, on any road, for hire or reward.

For a first offence, a driver and passengers could be fined up to $10,000 and for a second, or subsequent, offence, up to $25,000.

The vehicle could be impounded.

''We want to discourage this - there are perfectly good taxis out there.''

Snr Sgt McDouall said police supported people who put money aside and arranged a safe way home before heading into town to drink.

''We do not support the drunks who go out there and solicit a ride from a complete stranger to get them home, because they are both committing a criminal offence.''

New Zealand Taxi Federation spokesman Roger Heale said although it was legal for a sober driver to collect petrol money from friends, it was illegal for a driver to hire themselves out as an occupation.

''It's one thing to take your mates down to the pub, not drinking and them buying you Coke all night and paying for your petrol.

''It's completely another, you getting in your car on Friday and Saturday and actively seeking carriage, or to take people for a donation, or a fee.''

Paying a taxi fare was much cheaper than paying a police fine, he said.

''And you don't have the risk, you're fully insured, and you've got a compliant driver, company and car. Why would you run the risk?''

Last night, two of those injured in Sunday's crash remained in Dunedin Hospital. Back-seat passenger Courtney Donald (17) was still in a serious condition and driver Cameron Presland (20) remained under assessment.

Excuse me?

''We want to discourage this - there are perfectly good taxis
out there.''

Have you tried to get a taxi in Dunedin at 3am on a Saturday morning?

Opportunity well explained

Thank you Simpson for a wise post about the ideas and motivation behind the "sober driver" movement.

They sure beat the tar out of the alternative - lecturing young people about how they should/shouldn't drink, how they should plan ahead when everyone who was young at heart as well as in years knows a night out is not scripted ahead in immutable detail.

Why aren't we all perfect?

"Why don't they just not drink?" asks QsRC.  "Way too simple and easy I'd say."  

True, simple and simplistic.  Why don't we all become perfect, preferably from the moment of birth?   Why don't we all marry only the right person and remain right for each other till death do us part, either that or stay celibate all our lives?  Why don't we breed only the children we can financially and with attention and kindness and wisdom, rear to perfection?  Why don't we eat healthy food, just the right amount so we are neither too big or too thin?  Why don't we take sensible exercise, instead of overdoing it and pulling a muscle or, probably the more common decision, decide we'll start "tomorrow"?  Why don't we reply promptly to letters, pay bills promptly, remember all our friends' and familiies' birthdays, clear leaves out of spouting before the storms,  turn the other cheek when insulted or assaulted, save for a rainy day even if we can barely manage to get through when the sun's shining?  

Why are we mere fallible humans when we could be so much better - couldn't we, QsRC?

English model

Why not change it to what is done in England? People ring a number and then someone is dropped off to drive the car of the person who has had to much drink home for them. Instead of using your own car, use theirs. Then you are not giving them a ride home in your car but driving  theirs home for them. Don't think there are any laws against driving someone else's car home for them when they are drinking. They can then pay for your transport cost to get to them and then from their home back to yours. Simple really - cant be fined for that.

Yeah that'll work!

"Educating our kids to make better choices is the answer."  Riiiiight, johnstone.  Education prevents unintended pregnancies, over-eating, getting into fights and getting into debt, doesn't it?  It doesn't?  Oh come on, you must be kidding.

Opportunity not to be missed

Having read through some of the reaction to this article I feel that some of it may be missing the point a bit.  I know one of the young people involved in this and from their perspective it is born out of a real concern for the numbers making bad choices that is costing their lives.  This group are looking to really open up a conversation around all the issues that cause these tragedies, not just drink driving - but in most cases it is the drink driving that becomes the focus so that is where they have started.  I think it's time to see support around this peer group that are trying to reach out to the rest of the community to help them deal with a serious and deadly issue among their age group.  This group are open to all ideas and really are looking for suggestions and discussion with what they are able to do - the opportunity to have this conversation is there for the taking and one that should not be passed up lightly by all those concerned about keeping our young people alive.

Why don't they just not drink?

The average car fits 5 people, so 4 drinkers one driver. Take turn about that means one in every 5 weekends your sober driver.

Way too simple and easy I'd say. 

Proactive yet misguided

If this article is attempting to say that the tragic incident on Saturday night would have been prevented if this ad hoc taxi service was available; they are trully misguided.

One person had the choice not to drive and four others had the choice not to get in the car. All five of those occupants had the choice to call a friend or family member to pick them up or spend the night at the party. All five of those people choose not to. Unfortunately, three of the remaining occupants now have to deal with the outcomes of their terrible decisions.

My heart bleeds for the families who must be wondering why these five occupants didn't call them on Saturday night, I feel deeply for their loss as I'm sure the rest of our small Dunedin community does.

Educating our kids to make better choices is the answer. Making sure our kids know we are available when they need us no matter the time of day or night and whatever the situation might be is the answer. Being a proactive community that invests in accessible public transport is the answer.

Although their hearts are in the right place, an informal, unlicensed "cheap" taxi service is not the answer.

Don`t blame the police

What has happened is terrible, and so senseless. It also brings home a clear message: please don't drink-drive and speed. Rather than asking the Police to be more lenient, penalties for drink-driving and speeding should hit the wallets of offending drivers even harder, regardless of their age. [Abridged]

Sober Drivers

I really don't see how the police have a leg to stand on. These young people are not advertising in the true sense of the word. They are simply utilising social media to offer rides, and they may or may not accept a contribution towards petrol. They are not licensed, they don't claim to be licensed, and the people that might take advantage of the ride also know they are not licensed. So how is there a problem here if everyone involved knows the deal?

The hitchhiker analogy was a good one. I can understand the police being reluctant to encourage random people turning themselves into unlicensed taxi services, but legally speaking I think they are in a difficult position. If the young people make no mention of accepting cash for their services, then in theory they are just giving someone a ride, and there's nothing illegal about that. 

Sober drivers on call

Isn't there some room for sensible toleration of the facebook sober drivers move to get people home safely?

"although it was legal for a sober driver to collect petrol money from friends, it was illegal for a driver to hire themselves out as an occupation"  

Police persecution of this grassroots movement is as unhelpful as persecuting people who give food to foodbanks because they're undermining the hospitality industry!  An occupation is something you do primarily for income, so if you do something that returns your costs and a piddling amount for your time and inconvenience, an occupation adds significantly to your income.  Unless I have misunderstood the point of the Facebook group of sober drivers, the drivers in it are motivated at least as much for good-citizenship reasons as for subsidising their own car expenses.

As for planning the cost of a taxi before going out, I'd have thought the police would have had enough experience of people to know that many people don't intend to get too drunk; some people don't plan anything in their lives very well; young people who may end up being good planners haven't had much practice yet; and many of us if we had to budget for possibly having more to drink in a shorter time than we intended - perhaps unexpectedly encountered friends we hadn't seen for ages - we could not afford to go out at all, not if we live an expensive taxi-ride from where we socialise.

I'd like to see more flexibility shown.  If it were me or my young family/friends I'd rather they got driven home by a sober driver, even if they were unregistered for passengers, than with someone who's the least drunk person at the bar or party they ended up at. 

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