The Move Towards a 0.02 Alcohol Limit for Australian Drivers

The recent suggestion of a 0.02 blood alcohol limit in Queensland has ignited a nation wide debate, splitting academics and the media down the middle. It has stemmed from a submission to the Government of Queensland giving numerous options for combating drink driving, a 0.02 limit being one of them.

Professor Daube from Curtin University in Western Australia says the move is ‘inevitable’.

“We can wait forever for yet more evidence or we can decide as a nation that we need to act now.” Said Daube.

Another academic whose opinion has carried quite a lot of weight in the discussion was Professor Barry Watson, Director for the centre of accident research and road safety.

“Research does suggest that your crash risk does increase and, by 0.05, is somewhere between one-and-a-half to two times that of a sober driver”, claims Watson.

If this research is valid and reliable it is quite hard to argue with. But the real question that the public want answered is, how many incidents can be attributed to people driving between 0.05 and 0.02?

RACQ spokesperson Gary Fites had this to say,“The risk of crash between 0.02 and 0.05 is absolutely minute compared with the exponential increase in risk when you get to 0.08 and above” Monash University's Professor Max Cameron said the majority of offenders where above 0.15 and that a limit of 0.02 was “nonsense”.

"It's absolutely watertight that there is no (accident) increase(s) in levels below .05," Mr Cameron added.

He also stated that Queensland mirrored Victoria with over two thirds of drinking related crashes caused by repeat offenders with blood alcohol over 0.15. You only need to look at repeat drink driver Joanne Grosse who was caught 19 times over her p-plate limit to understand who Cameron is talking about. So is the limit simply going to penalise good drivers while the reckless drink drivers still break the law regardless?

That seems to be the majority of public opinion at the moment, with responsible drinkers complaining that they will be criminalised for enjoying a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with friends. It seems the Queensland government has sparked a debate and needs to consider the remaining options before taking on this ‘hot topic’ of public debate.

Those options include;

  • Immediate license suspension for drink driving offenders with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 (which would be down from 0.15.)
  • Impoundment of vehicles for drink drivers who commit two or more drink driving offences of any kind.
  • Longer impoundment times for vehicles when drivers are charged with drink driving offences (currently 48 hours) to either seven or 28 days.
  • Work license reforms to make it tougher to get work licenses. The option of abolishing restricted licenses (work licenses) in Queensland entirely is also included in the paper.
  • A compulsory blood testing requirement for drivers who attend hospital for examination or treatment as a result of a motor vehicle crash.
  • Extending the time limit for requiring a specimen (blood or breath) for analysis for a drink driving charge from two to three hours to assist officers in remote locations.
  • Remove the current 48 hour leave period for open license holders to produce their license to stop people providing false identity at the time of police interception.

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