Teenage drinking and driving incidents on the rise: ‘Parents have to play their part’ - police

Police are disappointed at a worrying trend of 16 and 17-year-olds drink driving. Photo: File
Police are disappointed at a worrying trend of 16 and 17-year-olds drink driving. Photo: File
There has been a sharp increase in partying teenagers risking their lives by driving home drunk, prompting a warning to parents.

A 17-year-old girl caught by police in the Selwyn district recorded a breath alcohol level of 965 micrograms – just over three times of the 250mcg legal limit of an adult.

The legal limit for under 20-year-olds is zero.

Youth aid officer Senior Constable Bruce Ward said it was the highest breath alcohol reading he had encountered in his 10 years dealing with young people.

Ward said eight 16 and 17-year-olds were referred to him after being processed for drink driving in the district throughout 2020, compared to about two each year in an average year.

The offenders had levels over the legal limit for adults.

Bruce Ward.
Bruce Ward.
Ward said it was a “worrying trend”.

He is urging parents of teenagers to make sure they get to and from parties safely, and to drop them off and pick them up if they are going to be drinking.

"Parents have to play their part as well. They have to make sure that they know that, if their young people have got a car and they are going out, they know if you drink, don’t drive.”

Parents needed to hammer this message home to their children, especially as youths were naturally risk-takers, and they faced peer pressure around drinking.

"And be bold. Say: ‘I don’t trust you, I’m taking the keys off you, and I’m picking you up’.”

Of the the eight 16 and 17-year-olds referred to him, four recorded levels over 400mcg.

The girl caught driving with the level of 965mcg was on a Saturday night in October when she was returning home on a country road from a party about 11.30pm.

A motorist behind her noticed her driving very slowly and erratically, and decided to overtake her and park in front so she would be forced to stop.

The member of the public then took the keys from her and phoned police.

Ward said the girl had been drinking for some hours at the party, consuming a mixture of spirits and beer, before making the foolish decision to drive home.

Ward said the girl was upset she had decided to drive.

She had been through Youth Court. Ward was confident she would never drink and drive again.

"I can guarantee now, we will never see this girl again (in court).

"She’s had excellent family support, and she realises it’s the dumbest thing she’s ever done," Ward said.

The whole incident had resulted in the girl completely turning her life around. She was now in full-time employment.

Following her Youth Court appearance, the girl was undertaking a family group conference plan involving a defensive driving course and drug and alcohol counselling.

She now had a limited licence where she could only drive to and from work.