New Zealand is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, friendly people, and a vibrant culture that includes a love for sports and social gatherings. While enjoying a few beers with friends is a common social activity, it’s essential to remember that there are strict regulations in place to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. In this article, we’ll explore the legal limits for alcohol consumption when driving in New Zealand and the potential consequences of exceeding these limits.

Drink driving:

  • Approximately 30% of fatal road accidents in New Zealand are attributed to alcohol.
  • Over the past decade, drink-driving-related fatal crashes have resulted in the tragic loss of approximately 1,100 lives in New Zealand and inflicted serious injuries on an additional 5,300 individuals.
  • During the 2018/19 period, there were 18,463 charges related to ‘driving under the influence’ offenses in New Zealand, with an impressive 94% of these charges resulting in convictions.
  • Among those convicted, 76% were male, while 23% were female.
  • In 2018/19, 427 New Zealanders found themselves incarcerated for driving under the influence, underlining the severity of the consequences associated with this dangerous behavior.

Standard Drink Guidelines

To help drivers make informed choices about alcohol consumption, New Zealand has standard drink guidelines. A standard drink contains approximately 10 grams of pure alcohol, which is the amount the average adult can metabolize in one hour. The number of standard drinks in a beverage depends on its alcohol content. Here are some approximate examples:

  • A typical 330ml bottle of beer with 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) contains about 1.3 standard drinks.
  • A 750ml bottle of wine with 12.5% ABV contains about 7.1 standard drinks.
  • A single shot (30ml) of spirits with 40% ABV contains about 1.0 standard drink.

How Many Beers In A Crate NZ

In New Zealand, the diversity of beer crate sizes reflects the nation’s love for variety and social gatherings. While the most prevalent crate contains a dozen beers, equating to 12 bottles or cans, you’ll also encounter larger formats like 15 or 24 bottles, particularly ideal for larger gatherings and special occasions or when choosing specific beer brands that offer these variations. It’s essential to be mindful of the label or product description when making your selection to ensure you get the quantity that best aligns with your plans. Whether you opt for a dozen, fifteen, or two dozen, sharing these brews responsibly among friends in New Zealand is an enduring and cherished social tradition, fostering camaraderie and convivial moments.

How Many Beers Before Driving NZ

Auckland’s commitment to the Vision Zero initiative, aimed at eradicating all road fatalities and serious injuries in Tāmaki Makaurau by 2050, represents a bold step toward safer roads. Among the numerous factors contributing to road accidents in New Zealand, alcohol stands out as a major culprit, accounting for approximately 30% of fatal crashes. In response, Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Police have embarked on a dedicated mission to reshape driver behavior, both in bustling urban centers and remote rural areas of Auckland. Their collective objective is to mitigate the devastating toll of drink driving.

It’s imperative to recognize that even the consumption of a single drink can substantially elevate the risks for yourself and fellow road users. While many individuals meticulously plan their nights out, we advocate for the inclusion of a crucial final step in those plans – securing a safe ride home in advance. Completing your night out should not only involve enjoyment but also the assurance of a well-considered strategy for reaching home without compromising safety. The responsibility for safeguarding not just your own well-being but that of others on the road is a shared obligation that underscores the significance of this collective effort.

Drink Driving Laws in New Zealand

man in a colorful shirt sits at the car wheel and holds a bottle outside of the car, raindrops on the black car

Drink driving is an issue that transcends age boundaries, posing an imminent threat on the roadways of New Zealand. The unsettling reality is that alcohol and drug-related Deaths and Serious Injuries (DSI) contribute to a staggering 32% of Auckland’s total DSI cases, making it an alarming concern. Surpassing all other factors except speeding, alcohol stands as the second most influential contributor to road accidents in New Zealand. Between the years 2017 and 2021, Auckland experienced the devastating toll of 91 fatalities and 520 serious injuries directly attributed to alcohol and drug impairment while driving.

Auckland Transport (AT) has adopted an unwavering commitment to promote a zero-tolerance stance towards drinking and driving, actively encouraging individuals to meticulously plan their journeys home with safety as the paramount consideration. It is critical to comprehend that even the most minimal intake of alcohol can compromise a driver’s judgment, concentration, and reaction times, underscoring that there is simply no safe limit when it comes to driving under the influence.

Extensive research consistently corroborates the perilous connection between a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The hazard becomes markedly pronounced at higher BAC levels, accentuating the gravity of the issue and the compelling need for collective responsibility in curbing this preventable menace on our roads.

Here are the key drink driving laws that apply in New Zealand:

  • Under 20: If you are under 20 years old, a zero alcohol limit is in place. This means that even a single drink can lead to a drink driving charge.
  • 20 or over: If you are 20 years or older, you must not drive if you have consumed more than the legal alcohol limit, which is 50 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood or a breath alcohol limit of 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per liter of breath, or a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%.

Determining the precise number of alcoholic drinks a person can have before reaching these limits is challenging, as it depends on various factors, including gender, body weight or Body Mass Index (BMI), food consumption, physical activity, and hydration levels. Given these variables, it is far wiser to plan not to drive after consuming any alcohol.

The Consequences of Drink Driving in New Zealand

The repercussions of drink driving can be life-altering, regardless of the quantity consumed. Whether slightly over the limit or significantly so, in the eyes of the law, you are considered a convicted drunk driver and a criminal.

Just one drink before driving can:

  • Impair your reaction time, putting you and others at risk of accidents.
  • Result in a criminal record.
  • Lead to a 6-month license suspension.
  • Incur a substantial fine.
  • Result in your vehicle being impounded.
  • Possibly lead to imprisonment.

On a personal level, a drink driving conviction can:

  • Lead to unemployment.
  • Cause humiliation and guilt.
  • Negatively impact your relationships with family and friends.

Remember, if you plan to drive the day after drinking, alcohol remains in your system longer than you might think. The same legal consequences apply if you are caught over the limit the following day. It’s always best to choose a safe and sober way to travel.

Understanding the Legal Drink Driving Limit in New Zealand

In New Zealand, understanding the legal parameters of alcohol consumption while driving is paramount. The established legal drink driving limit stands at 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 250 micrograms of alcohol per liter of breath. What’s crucial to comprehend is that these limits leave no room for ambiguity. Even the slightest deviation beyond these thresholds categorizes an individual as a drunk driver and a criminal in the eyes of the law.

This stringent approach stems from the resolute commitment to road safety in New Zealand. It acknowledges that any level of alcohol impairment, no matter how seemingly insignificant, poses a real danger to the driver, passengers, and all other road users. This unwavering stance is underscored by the understanding that the consequences of impaired judgment, slower reactions, and compromised focus can lead to life-altering accidents on the nation’s roads. In essence, the message is clear: compliance with the legal alcohol limit is not a matter of interpretation but a mandate for safeguarding lives and upholding road safety standards.

The Rationale Behind the 50mg Legal Limit

The legal limit is not a margin of allowance; rather, it accounts for variations in people’s metabolisms, including individuals with diabetes, and even the effects of mouthwash. As always, the safest approach is to abstain from driving if you’ve consumed any amount of alcohol.

Common Myths about Drinking and Driving:

  • Myth 1: False – Eating absorbs alcohol, so it’s acceptable to have one or two drinks with a meal.
  • Myth 2: False – Coffee or water sobers you up.
  • Myth 3: False – A cold shower sobers you up.
  • Myth 4: False – Being in the fresh air expels alcohol from your system more rapidly.

Taking Action When You Witness Someone Drinking and Driving

If you observe someone attempting to drive after consuming alcohol, it’s essential to take action. If the individual is an acquaintance, consider politely suggesting they call a taxi or arrange alternative transportation. However, if it’s a stranger or you feel uncomfortable confronting your friend, you have other options. You can either notify the bar or security staff or contact the police. When contacting the authorities, ensure you provide the following details:

  • Car registration number.
  • Description of the person.
  • Description of the vehicle.
  • Exact location.
  • The Reliability of the Breathalyser

When law enforcement suspects a driver might be over the drink drive limit, they conduct a breathalyser test at the roadside. Failing the test or refusing to take it results in arrest, with the individual being taken to the police station for further examination. At the station, the driver is asked to provide two additional breath specimens using a more advanced breathalyser. Failing these tests or continuing to refuse can lead to charges, and this evidence may be used against the individual in court. Additionally, refusing the test can result in the forfeiture of your vehicle.

It’s crucial to understand that refusing a blood test is also an offense. For a first or second drink-driving offense, a convicted driver may face a prison term of up to three months or a fine of up to $4,500. Furthermore, their driver’s license may be suspended for six months or longer, depending on the circumstances.

Safe Transportation Options for Getting Home

man with wavy dark hair looks outside of the yellow car, one hand on the car wheel, another  the second looks from the car

When it comes to getting home safely, there are various options to choose from:

  • Public Transport: Consider taking the bus or train, especially during late hours. The Night Bus and Northern Express services operate on Friday and Saturday nights, serving North, South, East, West, and Central suburbs. You can plan your journey home using the Journey Planner, or simply check the timetables on the AT Mobile app for iPhone or Android.
  • Get a Taxi: Numerous taxi services and ride-sharing platforms like Uber, Zoomy, or Ola are readily available to provide a convenient and affordable way to reach your destination. Choosing this option is not only cost-effective but also ensures the safety of both you and others on the road, avoiding the consequences of drink-driving.
  • Designated Driver or Friends: Whether you’ve been enjoying a few drinks at the Boat club or attending a city festival, it’s always a good idea to nominate a designated driver or call a friend or family member to pick you up. This is especially useful in rural areas with limited public transport options, and taking turns to be the sober driver can ensure everyone gets home safely.
  • Stay Over: If you’re uncertain about your ability to drive safely, consider staying over at a friend’s house or checking into a hotel or B&B. While accommodations might seem like an added expense, it’s undoubtedly more economical than the fines and legal consequences associated with drink-driving. Prioritizing safety and responsible choices is key to ensuring that everyone reaches their destination unharmed.


In New Zealand, understanding the legal limits and consequences of alcohol consumption while driving is crucial due to the high incidence of alcohol-related accidents, accounting for approximately 30% of fatal road crashes. Over the past decade, these accidents have resulted in numerous fatalities and injuries. With strict legal enforcement, including high conviction rates and severe penalties, it’s imperative to comprehend the 50 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood legal limit. Prioritizing safe transportation options, such as public transport, taxis, designated drivers, or accommodations, is essential for a responsible and safer journey home, preventing both accidents and legal repercussions.