Lowering the blood alcohol level

There is yet another campaign to reduce the blood alcohol level in NSW from 0.05 to 0.02 by anti-alcohol wowsers who provide no evidence that there is a significantly higher incident rate for those with a BAC between 0.02 and 0.05. As yet another death occurs with the driver having a BAC of 0.18, this is used as an excuse to campaign to lower the BAC.

No, 0.18 is clearly much higher than 0.05. That doesn’t prove anything about the risks of a person having a BAC between 0.02 and 0.05.

There are limited policing resources. It takes time to process a positive BAC reading – diverting the police from further random blood tests.

By prosecuting the person with 0.04 BAC, someone with a higher count might slip through.

Given the risks are skewed dramatically to those with very high BACs, this policy could well increase the risk of injury and accidents.

In short a proposal to reduce the legal blood alcohol level will affect police resourcing, punish people who drink responsibly and increase the risk of accident and injury. It is a ludicrous proposal that should be rejected.

The same may be said of the various proposals to make substantial reductions in speed limits when technology has led to ever safer vehicles.

All of these laws and regulations have done very little to road safety over the years. By far the biggest increases in safety are due to technological improvements and improvements in the conditions of roads.

About Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

I'm a retired general who occasionally gets called back to save the republic before returning to my plough.
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31 Responses to Lowering the blood alcohol level

  1. C.L.

    Glenn Reynolds put me on to this some years ago …
    Reason.com: Abolish Drunk Driving Laws.

    Once the 0.08 standard took effect nationwide in 2000, a curious thing happened: Alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased, following a 20-year decline. Critics of the 0.08 standard predicted this would happen. The problem is that most people with a BAC between 0.08 and 0.10 don’t drive erratically enough to be noticed by police officers in patrol cars. So police began setting up roadblocks to catch them. But every cop manning a roadblock aimed at catching motorists violating the new law is a cop not on the highways looking for more seriously impaired motorists.

    RTWT.

  2. nb

    But these laws do restrict the utility of a car. And cars are one form of freedom. Anti-car is discussed by Delingpole and James Ruppert at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EGLTgM4LT4

  3. Ed Case

    Going from .05 down to .02 will result in more DUIs in the first year, shortly followed by more COPs the next year.

  4. Bruce in WA

    There’s a push in WA (and dammit I can’t find the link!) to drop the level to 0.00 … (If it saves just one life …)

  5. stackja

    What ever BAC that impedes driving ability should automatically lead to disqualification of driving privileges for life.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle

    It’s persecuting the law abiding.

    More and more people no longer give a stuff and they break bad. Whereupon you have the situation of a large cohort of drivers who don’t have licenses, don’t have insurance, drive unregistered bombs which they can afford to lose and have no incentive to drive within the speed limit or BAC.

    When they get pulled over the cops and justice system just ban them from driving for another decade on top of the ban they already have and maybe take the car. If fined they fail to pay. After which they buy another cheapie or steal one and keep going.

    Driver with fake number plates made out of PAPER cops a $1,800 fine after police bust him behind the wheel without a licence or registration (18 Feb)

  7. These initiatives are merely another way of generating revenue, they have nothing to do with saving lives – ever (same as speed cameras). If lives did matter then, for a start, we’d have much better roads and they’d be maintained to a high standard.

  8. I also forgot to mention that the next revenue raising initiative will be to further reduce speed limits to unreasonable levels so that more speed cameras can be installed and revenue increased once more.

    Soon Australia will require cars designed to travel at maximum speeds of 60kmh and not 100kmh. Mind you, all of this will be fixed once it’s all electric, as there’ll be a fraction of the current number of cars on the road.

    Or, as the old joke goes, 95% of Land Rovers are still on the road, the other 5% made it home.

  9. Crossie

    bemused
    #3333103, posted on February 24, 2020 at 6:50 am
    I also forgot to mention that the next revenue raising initiative will be to further reduce speed limits to unreasonable levels so that more speed cameras can be installed and revenue increased once more.

    Soon Australia will require cars designed to travel at maximum speeds of 60kmh and not 100kmh. Mind you, all of this will be fixed once it’s all electric, as there’ll be a fraction of the current number of cars on the road.

    The Sunday Telegraph has it that one of the measures will be point to point speed cameras. This is an Orwellian intrusion by government into our daily lives and making sure you submit.

  10. Mother Lode

    This nonsense will always make inroads until a politician or some group can:

    1) Make the case that a normal functioning society will have casualties – try to imagine a society where everything is done to ensure no danger, as in no sports, no motorised delivery, no trains, no power points in bathroom or kitchen etc. and

    2) Reveal the real dynamics behind road deaths – at present there is mental schema played that every drop of alcohol is a killer whether it is in the guy who had a glass of wine after work and has to pop up to the shops because he forget to get milk, or a guy who has downed a slab with his mate and wants to get another.

  11. …point to point speed cameras.

    Victoristan already has these and they’ve been in place for around a decade now, intended to measure truck speeds, but I understand that their use is being broadened to regular vehicles as well.

  12. duncanm

    Go and watch an Aus Dash Cams compilation on YouTube. Police are already stretched and/or not policing dangerous driving.

    More restrictive laws will fix nothing.

  13. The Fifth Bike Rider of the Apocalypse

    So anyone who who supports a reduction in the blood alcohol content is a ‘wowser’.
    Tell that to families who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver.

  14. So anyone who who supports a reduction in the blood alcohol content is a ‘wowser’.
    Tell that to families who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver.

    There’s a difference between a drunk driver and one that’s had a single glass of wine for dinner (or maybe had taken cough medicine). Also, it seems that drug drivers are increasingly the major risk on our roads.

  15. anon

    Mr Fifth, there is a massive difference between .05 and drunk, conflating the two is dumb. When I was in vicpol I saw plenty of collisions, deaths etc, when alcohol was involved the offending party was a always pissed and had drunk a lot.

    Dan Andrews changed the law so you are now charged at .05, previously you had to be above .05, this has increased the number of people charged but hasn’t done anything to reduce collisions. It was just a way to drag more people into the net for no good reason.

  16. And how about comparing countries with zero blood alcohol levels for drivers, such as Finland to Australia and road fatalities (the figure svary depending on source):

    Finland 2018 – 4.2 per 100,000 inhabitants
    Australia 2018 – 4.6 per 100,000 inhabitants
    Europe Average 2018 – 4.9 per 100,000 inhabitants

    Broader stats for 2017: https://www.statista.com/statistics/896289/road-fatalities-per-100-000-inhabitants-in-european-countries/

  17. Alex Davidson

    One thing I noticed in the media reporting of this was the focus on rules and regulations and punishments. Not a word about inadequate roads or dangerously-close trees and power poles.

    Few Australians will admit it, but we are still suffering from a penal colony mindset. It has created a society where one lot see it as their duty to control the rest of us. Obedience is the name of their game, and so we have speed compliance signs posted every few hundred metres, armed police granted the power to stop anyone and compel them to submit to analysis of their breath or bodily fluids regardless of how well they were driving, daily calls for evermore severe punishments (even if the failure to obey was inadvertent), and jubilant reporting of new rules as “among the toughest in the world”.

    And it isn’t just on the roads. We are forced to obey wide-ranging and minutely-detailed restrictions on everything from the use of our land to our businesses to what we do with our own money. What gets lost in all of this is our freedom. We’ve ended up living in a type of police state.

  18. Tim Neilson

    One thing I noticed in the media reporting of this was the focus on rules and regulations and punishments. Not a word about inadequate roads or dangerously-close trees and power poles.

    Correct.

    The Hunchback of Spring Street announced that less money will be spent maintaining rural roads in CFMEUistan. His proposal to maintain road safety was to reduce speed limits on those roads.

    Isn’t one of the major causes of rural motor accidents driver fatigue? Won’t lower speed limits (if they’re obeyed) keep drivers on the road longer?

    Might a conspiracy theorist wonder whether the Setka government (nominally headed by the Hunchback of Spring Street) doesn’t give a stuff about a few more road deaths outside the metropolis if it frees up some taxpayer funds for more virtue signalling vanity projects?

  19. Vagabond

    This is a perticularly stupid proposal that will do nothing to reduce the road toll in NSW. OTOH it will increase revenue from fines so government will be easily persuaded and it will also further divert resources from effective policing of other offenses. The difference in crash risk between 0.02% and 0.05% is negligible and in no way can be interpreted as Driving Under the Influence (DUI – as distinct from XPCA which is Exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol). Here in Vic XPCA offenses are prosecuted on the numbers from a breath or blood test but DUI needs an expert opinion that the driver was actually “Incapable of proper control of a motor vehicle”. That requires evidence of impaired driving and/or a much higher blood alcohol level than 0.05%. All these laws will do is give government more opportunity to extort money from drivers in the holy name of “road safety”.

    The inanity of such ineffectual and tyrannical legislation was demonstrated last year in Vic when the road toll rose significantly despite vicious enforcement of ridiculously low speed limits in urban areas. Despite the persecution of urban drivers the road toll didn’t fall in urban areas but rose in the country which is where the policing efforts should have been directed. Mind you there not too many places left in Melbourne where you can speed anyway, such is the congestion. All these laws do is inconvenience drivers and lead to anger and hypervigilance for the cameras and arbitrary changes in speed limits that are in themselves distractions from actual driving. I have personal experience of this so feel very strongly about it. My discussions with “experts” in road safety have not inspired confidence.

  20. And it isn’t just on the roads.

    Exactly. It’s about controlling every aspect of our lives where at all possible. The Nanny State is the beginning, total control is the aim.

  21. struth

    It can’t be revenue generation.

    We know that heavily intoxicated people who decide to risk diving and being caught will think twice if they lower the limit by a coupla points!

  22. PB

    “It is a ludicrous proposal that should be rejected.”

    most ludicrous proposals end up becoming traffic law at some time.

  23. John Brumble

    Accidents per head of population is the wrong measure. Accidents per km travelled is a more accurate measurement. Imagine the low rate if everyone (on average) drove for only 1 minute per day.

  24. Bruce of Newcastle

    Once I worked out in Ncl there’s roughly two tonnes of steel per kilometre just in road signs.

  25. Fat Tony

    I remember reading a study done about 15 years ago that attributed 40% of traffic deaths to roadside “furniture” – poles, trees too close etc.

    The report got buried pretty deep somewhere – that 40% could be reduced only by spending money, whereas all the other so-called causes are revenue positive.

    When speed cameras became commonplace about 25 years ago, the government added fatigue as a major killer on the roads. Wonder how that came about??

  26. Kneel

    “…point to point speed cameras.”

    They do this in Germany to decide how much your motorway toll will be – the faster you drive, the more you pay. So those who want to, simply drive at 250km/h, then stop for an hour or so at the side of the road doing stuff on a laptop etc.
    As to alcohol, please please please do something about fatigue instead – driving after being awake for >18 hours is higher risk than 0.05 BAC, but there is no test for this, no law against it, no fine etc etc.

  27. Lee

    Dan Andrews changed the law so you are now charged at .05, previously you had to be above .05, this has increased the number of people charged but hasn’t done anything to reduce collisions. It was just a way to drag more people into the net for no good reason.

    Andrews thinks that having the most draconian road laws and steepest fines will reduce the road toll to zero.

    It will never happen; there are many other factors in play, for instance, driver tiredness, temporary unintentional loss of concentration, and suicides (drivers definitely have and do use their vehicles as a method of suicide).

  28. RacerX

    “Tell that to families who have lost a loved one to a drunk driver.”

    If the driver was under 0.05 they were not drunk?

  29. Adding the percentages of lives saved by RBT, .05, speed limit reduction etc, I calculate that a child is born every 100 kms.

  30. Rockdoctor

    I highlighted this yesterday having seen it on the front page of the Tele. Revenue raising period. Still say only way to stop all accidents is by removing humans from the equation & we are generations IMO away from a foolproof system to make that happen.

    Also another EU thought from the nether regions that probably wouldn’t do much in Europe or similar densely populated regions with good alternative transport but completely unsuited to Australia.

    However wet behind the ears McCormick gave this conference in Europe in December credence by attending…

  31. James Hargrave

    Bemused.

    Note that the figure is much lower for Britain where the limit is 0.8 (except in Scotland)

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