Drink driving laws - the new landscape

"Alcohol is currently a factor in almost a third of crashes in which people are killed and seriously injured on Western Australian roads,'' those were the words of WA Police and Road Safety Minister, Liza Harvey. The minister delivered the frankly shocking statistic in an interview where she went on to explain the new crackdown on drink driving in the Wildflower State. The crackdown, which mainly rotates around the confiscating of licences before court cases, is one of many across Australia and the rules are unlikely to be rolled back.

Recent laws and initiatives

Here are just some of the recent changes to the drink driving landscape.

Queensland, July 2011: The level of blood alcohol to merit an immediate licence suspension reduced from 0.15 to 0.10.
Canberra, Aug 2012: Proposals in place for vehicle interlocks (breathalysers linked to the vehicle ignition) to be placed on convicted offenders.
Western Australia, July 2012: Stricter rules now in place for police to suspend licences and refuse extraordinary licences at the scene.
Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia at Multiple times: While vehicle interlock have existed in some states since 2002 they are still being rolled out with Queensland the most recent addition in 2010. As noted above Canberra will likely follow.

The changes listed above are by no means exhaustive and other changes are on the way.

Some tips on getting home safe

  • Organise your back-up plan – Ok, so you may not have gone out to have a few drinks however you should feel free to change your mind. Planning here is key, working out a way of picking up your car the next morning is critical especially in city centres where parking bays may have time restrictions.
  • Organise a designated driver/know your taxis and public transport – This is really basic and 2 minutes on google should be more than enough to work out your options if no designated driver is available.
  • Be aware of the elements which impact blood alcohol levels – Here’s a handy link which should help you dispel some of the more silly myths around blood alcohol level.
  • Think things through – Having a drink at a friends place or a party is a very enjoyable thing to do. However things can be irreparably ruined if you have not worked out your route home before you start drinking.
  • Unburden yourself early – Being confident that you have sensibly worked out everything like picking up friends, food runs or transport home can actually make your party experience all the sweeter.

Notes for fleet managers

Special note should be taken by fleet managers to minimise the chances of drivers getting into difficulty with drink driving laws. Here are just some tips to avoid the most common hazards;

1. Run regular licence checks on fleet drivers – For this you may need to access your state/territory department of transport licencing department.
2. Push communications on alcohol policy – Make sure all fleet divers are aware of the laws and the company policy in the area. Use noticeboards, intranets and emails to drill this home.
3. Don’t rule out the use of interlocks - If you suspect the problem is substantial.
4. Include a zero alcohol clause - Bring this into your fleet vehicle usage contract or policy.

Parting thoughts

In a change to the methods in years gone by, transport arrangements for a night out are now dictating where the night will lead. Whilst most are buying into this there are still some who are either refusing to change or failing to think. With this in mind governments across Australia are segmenting and targeting the offenders with new laws. The net is most certainly tightening so those ignoring the changes will find their penalties increase substantially as time goes by.

What do you think of the current direction of drink driving laws

Do you think the laws are too strict or too relaxed?

Please comment below.

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