Should we cut the drink driving limit to 0.02?
A good bit of campaign journalism was launched in Melbourne yesterday by the Sunday Herald Sun in throwing open the debate on whether the drink driving limit should be dropped to .02.
The Sunday reported that 39 people had been killed in Victoria alone in accidents involving drivers under the .005 mark in just the last five years.
Victoria’s Deputy Police Commissioner has tentatively backed the debate, if not quite advocating an actual change to .02
We welcome any discussion around this. We welcome this debate.
“The bottom line is we’re not going to continue to get better and better unless we do continue to test our thinking,” he wrote yesterday.
The push for a change to .02 has been backed trauma surgeons, academics and some victims of road accidents.
Professor Ian Johnston from the Accident Research Centre said that Australia would join a pretty exclusive club of countries on 0.02 or 0, Sweden, Norway, Poland and few states in the US.
While Professor Johnston made the point that the risk of a crash doubled for a driver at .05 compared to that at zero the question is really whether the change would make any dent in the road toll.
A study out of the US recently argues that zero tolerance drink driving policy does not reduce road deaths, at least among drivers under the age of 21 to whom the zero tolerance laws applied to.
The study conducted by researchers in Texas and published in the Economic Inquiry journal looked at 30,000 fatalities in nighttime accidents and found no change in the amount that drivers were drinking.
Obviously the study has its limitations but it’s worth thinking about.
If we did switch to a limit of .02 it would basically do away with the idea that you could go to the pub, have a few drinks and still drive.
Dropping the limit to .02 is basically zero tolerance, leaving a tiny a margin for what would be basically accidental alcohol in your system.
Changing the limit would mean we would completely reconfigure the message of responsible drinking and driving in Australia that has been carefully crafted over the last 30 years.
The new rule of thumb would have to be if you’re driving you’re not drinking full stop – an attitude that is not rare among a lot people already.
There’s also the question of getting every state and territory to sign up to the new limit. Australia currently avoid the farcical American situation where you could be facing jail time in one state and not even breaking the law
If it saves lives I can’t see a problem with it, but the question though is whether this actually would reduce the road toll or merely confuses harsher regulation with safer roads.
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