Drink-Driving-2014-09-30

THE MESSAGE IS NOT IN THE BOTTLE

Most people agree that the .05 campaigns coupled with legislation has been effective in reducing much drink driving and thus much road trauma.  It’s been estimated that 31% of all driver and pedestrian road deaths in Australia are alcohol-related. The number of road accidents resulting in hospitalisations due to alcohol would be even higher.  In 2006, the cost of each fatality crash to the Australian community was estimated at approximately $2.6m, while the cost of each hospitalisation crash was estimated at approximately $266,000. [1]

Drink driving remains a problem for those who don’t learn to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol. One answer is the fitting of an interlock device to the motor vehicle ignition system that requires a zero BAC breath test from the driver prior to starting the car and subsequently at various times during the journey. On the later occasions the driver is given a few seconds warning so they can pull over to the side of the road to complete the test.

Taxi-2013-07-16

Last weekend Western Australia launched an awareness campaign and announced it will implement alcohol interlock devices for all drink drivers from October 24. WA expects between 4,000 and 6,000 alcohol offenders will be required to enter the program each year.

Whilst interlock devices are efficient at reducing the road toll in the short term, there is little evidence that they foster long term behavioural change once they are removed from the vehicle[2].  In some jurisdictions interlocks are imposed only on repeat offenders as a last ditch attempt to ensure an individual does not drive whilst they are intoxicated. Otherwise the alternative would be imprisonment.

Imprisonment is not seen as the answer it is costly and is reportedly ineffective at reducing drink driving[3], In Arizona, for example, the introduction of statutory minimum jail terms for drink driving in 1990 had no impact on the proportion of drink driving arrests in the five year evaluation period.[4]

Sobriety programs have provided a better return to the community. South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program has reported a 12 percent reduction in arrests for repeated drink driving and a 9 percent reduction in arrests for domestic violence following adoption of the program. The 24/7 Sobriety program requires an offender to abstain from alcohol completely or go directly to jail. When confronted with certain punishment (i.e. jail time) for a single positive BAC test, participants were motivated to avoid drinking. Prevention of domestic violence was an additional benefit of an end to heavy drinking. However the long term effects of the program are yet to be established and it is unknown if the participants’ non-drinking will be sustained after they complete the program.

The key message of the drink driving campaign is – don’t drink and drive. This does not address alcohol problems beyond drink driving and leads people to think it is ok to drink excessively as long as they don’t drive.

Whereas the 24/7 program has shown that when consumption is controlled the benefits to the community are many. Is it now time for Australia to trial the 24/7 Program for recidivist drink drivers and violent offenders?

 

Written by Julie Rae and Geoff Munro

[1] Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Cost of road crashes in Australia 2006. Research Report 118. Canberra:. http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/2010/files/report_118.pdf

[2] Australian Institute of Criminology. Effective drink driving prevention and enforcement strategies: Approaches to improving practicehttp://aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/461-480/tandi472.html

[3] Henderson M 1996. Defining the problem and tasks of the summit. Drink Driving Recidivism Summit. Adelaide: Australian Advisory Committee on Road Trauma

[4] Fradella HF 2000. Mandatory minimum sentences: Arizona’s ineffective tool for the social control of driving under the influence. Criminal Justice Policy Review 11(2): 113–135