The Australian public has always frowned upon drunk driving. With countless campaigns being held each year to deter drink driving and alcohol-related collisions, Australian roads have become a safe place to be for the most part.
However, a recent study has shown an alarming drink driving trend that shows more than 1 in 10 people admitting to drinking and driving over the legal limit of .05%BAC. A statistic that could lead to more fatalities if no preventive measure is taken.
In this blog post, we discuss the findings from the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), potential solutions and more.
Drink driving in NSW by the numbers
The survey conducted by NRMA was released as part of their November 2023 issue of the Road Safety Series, a series of reports aiming to identify the main factors involved in road accidents and initiatives that may help reduce the risk of injury and loss of life.
This latest survey from NRMA featured over 3,300 respondents and found that a shocking 12 per cent of them admitted to driving while intoxicated over the legal limit of .05%BAC while 17 per cent believed they were possibly over this limit.
Of those who admitted to drink driving, only 14 per cent were ever caught by random breath testing (RBT) when on the road.
NRMA noted that the instances of RBTs conducted in the state saw a significant drop by more than 30 per cent in 2022 compared to the total RBTs conducted in 2019.
Of those who drank alcohol, less than one in three believe they could have been over the legal limit the next day. This is alarming as studies have shown that driving with a hangover could be just as dangerous as driving when intoxicated.
Alcohol can stay in your blood for as long as 12 hours, depending on various factors. Once your BAC level reaches zero, a hangover will begin to kick in and its symptoms could potentially impair individuals, making daily activities such as driving much more difficult than it would be when sober.
LEARN MORE: How long does alcohol stay in your body?
Deaths from drink driving in NSW
Last year, 36 people in NSW lost their lives to alcohol-related road collisions, and unfortunately, the trend looks to continue this year.
As of 31 August 2023, 35 individuals have died on NSW roads, nearly equalling the previous year’s number. The Transport Accident Commission found that 20 per cent or 1 in 5 drivers killed on the road recorded a BAC of .05 or higher.
It’s also worth noting that in 2022, 278 individuals in the state were seriously injured in alcohol-related collisions on the road.
The legal BAC driving limit of .05 in Australia has been enforced for over 25 years but alcohol-related accidents still contribute to a significant number of deaths in the country. To help further deter the practice, Australia has implemented strict penalties, with jail time being a potential penalty for those found guilty of severe incidents on the road involving alcohol.
Specific penalties for those found guilty of drink driving differ from state to state but generally involve fines of up to $4,000, a licence disqualification, an alcohol interlock order, and compulsory attendance of Drink Driver Behaviour Change Programs, and of course, the aforementioned prison term of up to 12 months. First-time offenders are spared severe punishments.
A zero alcohol law is enforced on those who are on a learner’s licence, meaning that they cannot be operating a vehicle even if a little bit of alcohol is present in their system.
LEARN MORE: Drink driving penalties in Australia by state
Potential solutions from NRMA
Also included in the NRMA report were suggestions they feel will help reduce the number of fatalities on the road and deter the practice of drink driving.
One potential solution suggested by NRMA is to increase RBTs conducted per year to at least 1.1 random tests per licence holder, in line with Austroad's best practice model.
This would see over 7.3 million RBTs conducted annually across NSW, twice the number of tests conducted in 2022. The number of RBTs conducted in 2022 was 3.8 million, 36 per cent less than what was conducted in 2019.
Peter Khoury, an NRMA spokesperson, told news.com.au that increasing the number of RBTs could be the ultimate deterrent. “The more drivers see them set up on the side of the road, the more likely they are not to risk drink driving,” he said in a statement.
To achieve this target, NRMA believes that adequate funding, resourcing and improved planning will need to be invested by local governments. This will also be to ensure the long-term goal of at least 1.5 RBTs per licence holder each year can be made possible.
Breathalysers to combat drink driving
Breathalysers are a staple at booze buses and at any police stop. However, to achieve more efficient breath testing, accurate BAC readings need to be produced in seconds. Officers should also need to have the option of printing this data on the spot and having a digital copy recorded in a secure location for future reference.
With that being said, Andatech believes that alcohol breath testing should not only be conducted by law enforcement officers and that public spaces that serve alcohol also hold a responsibility in ensuring the safety of their patrons.
A breathalyser should be easily accessible in restaurants and pubs that serve alcohol to help patrons accurately estimate their BAC level and make an informed decision on whether or not they should be getting behind the wheel.
Wall-mounted breathalysers are a convenient way for organisations to ensure the safety of their patrons. Business owners could charge a small fee for each breath test conducted or have it as a complementary perk.
Personal breathalysers have also become increasingly popular among individuals as many more Australians recognise the importance of alcohol safety. Owning a breathalyser can bring about surprising benefits you can learn more about in our blog post Benefits to owning a breathalyser.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Wafi Rashid