NZ Driving BAC Limits

In this article we will try to simplify the current NZ driving Blood Alcohol Content regulations. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) are in essence one in the same as far as testing goes. This is because an accurate measurement of breath alcohol content can also accurately determine a person’s blood alcohol content.

The NZ alcohol driving limit changed on the 1st of December, 2014 as follows:

For drivers aged 20 years and over lowered from 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg. The blood alcohol limit lowered from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08), to 50mg (0.05). Under 20 year olds cannot have any alcohol present when driving.

We have found that the above statement has a tendency to confuse people and this is because in NZ we have two methods of reading the same thing, ie: one for breath alcohol and a different one for blood alcohol content. Internationally (in over 85% of countries) a percentage measurement is used as this is easier to interpret and the one measurement will cover both breath and blood alcohol scenarios. The internationally adopted percentage measurement is known as %BAC. In short it looks like this for NZ:

  • Between 0.051 – 0.08 %BAC (250 – 400mcg of alcohol per litre of breath / 50 – 80mg of alcohol per 100ml) = up to a $700 infringement + 50 demerit points + no criminal conviction.
  • Above 0.08 %BAC (400mg of alcohol per litre of breath / 80mg of alcohol per 100ml) = criminal conviction.

If we compare NZ driving BAC limits with other countries, most (approximately 70%) of first world countries have a driving limit the same as the current NZ BAC limit. This includes the European Union, Australia, Canada and South Africa. The United States is the main country that is not aligned to 0.05 %BAC and they still choose to have NZ’s previous level of 0.08 %BAC.

All Breathalysers NZ digital breathalysers are sold with %BAC display to make life easy.