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John MacDonald: Time to take vehicles off drunk drivers

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 May 2023, 12:17pm
Photo / NZ Police
Photo / NZ Police

John MacDonald: Time to take vehicles off drunk drivers

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 May 2023, 12:17pm

Should we be taking vehicles off drunk drivers? I say yes. And I’ll tell you why.

It's been revealed this morning that a man who appeared in court in Christchurch last month and pleaded guilty to drink-driving, got behind the wheel again that very same day and ended up killing himself and another innocent driver.

He was just 24. His name is Zejayohn Keyli-West Hurinui. The guy he crashed into and who also died was 69. He was from Methven - his name is Anthony Wood. Anthony’s wife survived the crash, but was seriously injured.

So it was 9:15 at night —just over a month ago, on the 26th of April— when Zejayohn collided with Anthony Wood’s vehicle on Domett Road in Hurunui.

Just hours before that, the 24-year-old had been in court for sentencing after driving over the legal alcohol limit less than four weeks earlier.

It was in the early hours of April 1 when he pulled over on Scargill Valley Road in North Canterbury to roll a cigarette. That was when the Police turned up and did a roadside breath test and found he was more than twice the legal limit for driving after drinking alcohol.

His licence was suspended for 28 days on the spot and it was just over three weeks after that when he appeared in court, pleaded guilty and was sentenced.

It’s unclear at this stage what the sentence was, but the court summary says the penalty for the offence is either three months’ imprisonment or a $4,500 fine. Plus disqualified from driving for six months or more.

But, despite all that, and just hours after being sentenced, he was back behind the wheel and at 9:15 that night, he drove into Anthony Wood’s vehicle, leaving the two of them dead and Anthony’s wife seriously injured.      

How many more reasons - other than that - do you need to be convinced that dishing people fines and taking their licences off them isn’t enough to try and stop this type of carnage happening on our roads?

I’m not saying that, if the court had taken a vehicle off this particular guy, that it would have prevented what happened. And I’m certainly not saying that taking a vehicle off him would’ve meant that he and that innocent guy would still be alive today.

Because there’s a chance he still would’ve ended up behind the wheel of some vehicle. And maybe when someone is that reckless and brazen to be driving just hours after standing up in court and pleading guilty to drink-driving, maybe there’s never going to be a way of keeping them off the road.

But is that a good enough reason not to get tough and really crack down on these selfish idiots? Of course it isn’t!

It’s the perfect reason to get tougher. Just like every other case of drink-driving is a perfect reason to get tougher.

I was surprised to find out not that long ago that, if you are caught driving over the limit, it doesn’t automatically mean losing your licence. I know of someone who got off with a fine - which surprised me.

But when you’ve got someone who gets behind the wheel twice the legal limit, goes to court and pleads guilty, and then drives again just hours later - well our system needs changing, don’t you think? 

I’m in no doubt that it needs changing. Which is why I’m saying today that, if fines and suspended licences aren’t getting the message through, then we need some stronger penalties. And the starting point for that should be, giving courts the ability to take someone’s vehicle off them.

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