Government set to hike seatbelt fines to help fund Land Transport plan

The Government is targeting infringement fines for infractions like not wearing a seatbelt as a source of increased revenue in its new policy statement on Land Transport.    

A draft Government Policy Statement (GPS), released on Monday, outlines $20 billion of investment over the next three years but to pay for it they are having to find revenue from a few other sources.   

The GPS recognises the need to increase takings, with the draft GPS proposing "to increase revenue by more than 30 percent over the coming three years".    

Alongside increasing vehicle registration by $50 in the next two years, the Government will also be increasing financial penalties for driving infringements.     

The GPS said most of the financial penalties and demerit point levels for offences "have not been reviewed since the Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations were set in 1999".  

As a result, several of the penalties are "poorly targeted, too low to deter unsafe behaviour or misaligned with risk", the Government claims.     

Infringement fees are a particular target and the GPS emphasises New Zealand's fines are "significantly lower than the equivalent fees in overseas jurisdictions.     

"For example, almost all jurisdictions in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have higher penalties for not wearing a seatbelt compared to New Zealand."    

Bringing New Zealand's penalties in line with Australia for seatbelt fines would require nearly tripling infringement fines.  

Currently, Kiwis caught in a moving car without a seatbelt face a $150 fine - which could increase to about $450.     

Wearing a seatbelt doubles the chances of surviving a serious crash but, annually, more than 80 people not wearing seatbelts still die in crashes, the GPS stated.  

Another road safety enhancement the Government intends to roll out is roadside oral fluid drug testing, setting targets of 50,000 tests per year once the scheme is underway.    

Last year, Labour backtracked on its plans to implement the measure.  

"The tech doesn't exist in the world and police did advise the Select Committee of this from the start, so it's not police's fault," Police Association President Chris Cahill said at the time.    

It's unclear whether significant developments have since been made in the field.   

Police currently require a blood test from drivers they suspect are impaired because of drugs.    

"Alcohol and drugs are the leading contributors to fatal crashes in New Zealand but only 26 percent of drivers think they are likely to be caught drug driving," the GPS outlines.    

While some transport safety measures are being amped up, Simeon Brown confirmed plans to stop "a blanket approach to speed limits".       

"Instead, there will be a focused approach on improving road safety by building safer infrastructure, investing in safer drivers and requiring safer vehicles," the Transport Minister said.   

Speed limits will also be increased to 110km/h on roads that are "engineered to that safety standard".