Put a brake on drink driving

May 21, 2016

An expanded alcohol interlock program will come into place on October 1.

A few years ago while living in Tasmania, I had two stubbies of beer after a sporting event and drove home. 

Less than a kilometre from home, I was pulled over for a random breath test. The policewoman looked at the machine for what seemed like an eternity, then showed it to me. It read 0.049, just under the legal limit. Even though I had firmly believed I would be nowhere near the limit, it was a relief, but still far too close for comfort. 

This memory has resurfaced in my mind, following news of the proposed new legislation for all drink drivers in Victoria, which would make alcohol interlocks compulsory for at least six months. 

The aim of this State Government deterrent strategy is to lessen instances of road trauma caused by drink-driving. It is almost impossible to argue against any measure aimed towards road safety, and if introduced, the legislation would result in great costs to the offender. 

Interlocks that require a driver to pass a breath test before they can start their vehicle, are expensive. They cost the driver to install and remove, and cost about $150 per month to hire. That’s more than $1000 over a six-month period — a significant financial hit, especially for low-income earners. 

Under the planned changes, it would not matter if a driver was caught just over the limit, say 0.051, or much higher, although the length of time for the interlock condition would differ depending on the reading. 

It is important to contextualise drink-driving. There is a big difference between driving after a dozen beers, and getting behind the wheel after two. One is a huge risk, the other is also a risk, but a far lesser one. 

I myself know how much of a fine line it is. On reflection, I realised I had a relatively empty stomach which clearly had an impact on the reading. That instance really wised me up to the risks, even for such a small amount of alcohol. 

A move by the government to tighten interlock laws should serve as an ever-present reminder to road users that it’s not just big risk-takers that could wind up with an interlock fitted to their vehicle. In some respects, it’s a zero tolerance strategy. 

If you take a risk, even a small one, the financial consequences will be significant. There’s no real grey area. It’s fairly black and white and I think that’s a good thing. 

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