Drinking beer at the wheel is legal …just don’t go over the limit


A local couple say they were shocked when told by Nelson police that there was nothing wrong with a man drinking from a bottle of beer while driving.

The couple say they were leaving a local supermarket when they noticed a man getting into the driver’s seat of a car with an open bottle of beer. One of the concerned citizens approached the man and told him what he was doing was illegal and that he would call the police if he didn’t stop. They say the man drove off laughing, ignoring their pleas.

But the couple, who didn’t want to be named, were stunned when told by Nelson police that it wasn’t illegal to drink and drive, only if the driver was over the legal limit and they weren’t interested in the car information they had collected.

Tasman District road policing manager, Inspector Jenni Richardson says under the law it is not illegal for a driver over 20 years of age to drink while driving a motor vehicle, provided they do not exceed the legal limit.

But drivers under 20 years of age must adhere to a zero alcohol limit.

“While it is not illegal, police do not encourage people to drink alcohol while driving and they would certainly stop them and check their alcohol consumption,” she says.

She says if any other road users have concerns about the behaviour of a driver they should get the vehicle’s registration details and call police immediately, not wait until they get home as it’s often too difficult to try and track them down after a time delay.

The couple say they can’t believe the law allows people to drink while they drive and say the man was driving at around 3pm, when school children were making their way home.

“I hope I do not read in the paper tomorrow of a poor child, or another innocent driver being hurt [because of this].”