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Drink driving the new black?

By johnboy - 20 October 2008 53

The AFP have been alarmed by a surge in the numbers of drink drivers they’ve been picking up with some huge blood alcohol levels:

    “ACT Policing have received some concerning statistics in the past week with over 48 drunk-drivers detected.

    Of particular concern, seven of the 2,500 drivers tested during this period recorded readings over 0.150 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, three times the legal limit.

    The latest incident was detected after a collision on Kingsford Smith Drive at 8am today (October 20) with one of the drivers, a 39-year-old Florey man, allegedly returning a reading of 0.237.

    The highest reading recorded was 0.252, or five times the legal limit, at 1.30am on Sunday morning (October 19) after police pulled over the 31-year-old Theodore man.

But they promise they’re on top of it.

What’s Your opinion?

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53 Responses to
Drink driving the new black?
thecman 12:13 am 21 Oct 08

Bigfeet is spot on regarding the time taken to process a person for a PCA offence. Even in the best of circumstances the testing and subsequent paperwork will take an experienced Police Officer a minimum of 60 – 90 mins – and that’s probably optimistic.

Interesting idea about using private contractors or other govt employees to undertake RBT – fairly consistent with the growing trend toward privatisation and / or securitisation of traditional law enforcement functions. Not sure how it would work when the drunk driver decides he is not going to comply with the contractor’s instructions though – a not uncommon occurence.

bigfeet 10:48 pm 20 Oct 08

GregW said :

Why does processing a drink driver take so long anyway?

My (very limited) understanding is that they have to be taken to the station, observed for twenty minutes (to eliminate mouth alcohol). There are a few standard questions that need to be asked. The test itself takes next to no time. The rest of the time is taken up with administrative and paperwork.

But again, this is just my limited understanding. I’m sure one of the regular cops onsite could give a more detailed answer.

Deano 10:40 pm 20 Oct 08

bigfeet said :

What does “self-report” mean?

Basically they conduct a survey in the community and ask “Have you ever driven whilst over the limit in the past 12 months?”. If the number of people who respond “yes” is below the national average then the police are doing a good job. Therefore RBT testing is not about catching drunk drivers but acting as a deterrent to drink driving. Same with the ad campaigns and roadside signs etc. The idea is to reduce the number of drunk drivers in total, not to try to catch them all.

The same survey asks about how safe people feel in their homes. If the response level is that people feel safer than the national average then the police are doing a good job, irrespective of how many crimes they solve.

GregW 10:39 pm 20 Oct 08

My (probably naive) thoughts on the matter is that the government wants to appear tough on drink driving but believes that it would be unacceptable (economically) to suspend so many licenses.

What about taking RBT responsibility away from police and to a model similar to the roadside speed vans? Private contractors or government employees would perform RBTs frequently, fines would be issued by mail to those caught with small excesses. Police are called in for extreme cases / BAC accuracy disputes etc, but in general no police written reports necessary. It may not be as profitable as the speed vans, but if it would pay for itself, I don’t think many (sober) drivers would mind being tested every few weeks.

Why does processing a drink driver take so long anyway?

Special G 9:51 pm 20 Oct 08

thecman and bigfoot are on the money with this one. Govt wants numbers of tests. Newspapers report increases in drink driving when tests are low and people caught are high as is the result from targetted testing – this looks bad so govt requests lots of tests – back to square one – doing tests to get numbers. Gotta love perceptions.

bigfeet 9:49 pm 20 Oct 08

thecman said :

KPI 26 requires that the percentage of persons in the ACT who self-report to driving while suspecting they are over the 0.05 alcohol limit is at or below the national average.

What does “self-report” mean?

thecman 9:34 pm 20 Oct 08

In FY2007/2008 ACT Policing conducted 81,124 random breath tests with 1584 ‘positive’ results returned. Just because you have not seen Police doing RBT or been tested yourself does not mean it does not happen. Spend a couple of hours in the ACT Magistrates Court on any given day and you will see the procession of punters being processed through the system as a result of being picked up care of RBT.

As Bigfeet correctly states the number of RBT’s conducted by Police is driven by Key Performance Indicator (KPI) 26 in the 2007/2008 ACT Police Purchase Agreement. KPI 26 requires that the percentage of persons in the ACT who self-report to driving while suspecting they are over the 0.05 alcohol limit is at or below the national average.

Two types of RBT are conducted – high volume/high visibility random breath testing, and low volume targeted breath testing in areas where high numbers of drink drivers are usually apprehended – read near licensed establishments.

bigfeet 9:09 pm 20 Oct 08

It was explained like this to me once, and it seems to make sense:

The ACT police must perform a set number of tests each year, it is part of their reporting/performance agreement with the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Catching and processing a drink driver takes two police off the road for a couple of hours, and during that time they are not testing anyone. If they stay on the road, they can do a hundred more tests.

So booze-bus blitzes are carried out a times and locations with high traffic flow, but when/where there is little chance of someone actually being over, say 11am on a Tuesday.

Felix the Cat 9:02 pm 20 Oct 08

Bungle said :

Well I think I’ve been breathalised once in the past 2 years. Maybe a few more crackdowns could help.

It’s been only once in 4 or 5 years (maybe even more) for me and then it was Qbn cops doing a breath test. I drive approx 6 hours a day.

Deano 8:50 pm 20 Oct 08

Hmm… A surge in drink driving in the same period the Academy is offering free entry to over 25s.

A coincidence? I think not.

Vic Bitterman 8:29 pm 20 Oct 08

Got to be a few years since I was breathalised, the Canberra keystone cops are seriously under resourced.

At best they are conducting sporadic small patch policing, and reactionary at the best of times.

pptvb 8:27 pm 20 Oct 08

As commented above, I do above average K’s, 40,000 or so each year, and I haven’t been breathalized in 4 years. In fact, it isn’t luck of the draw, I never see them!
I did, however, nearly get hit by a Commodore Friday evening that had a 3 yr old steering.
On a busy main road in Kambah.
Luckily his Mum & Dad had their seat belts on. Parenting at it’s best.

bubzie 8:16 pm 20 Oct 08

i’m a p plater, and i drive home from work at like midnight on friday/saturday nights, and i havent ever been breathalised!

go figure?

Bungle 8:09 pm 20 Oct 08

Well I think I’ve been breathalised once in the past 2 years. Maybe a few more crackdowns could help.

thecman 8:03 pm 20 Oct 08

An interesting story which has been trivialised by JB’s closing sentence. Personally I would be interested in knowing more about the drivers detected with such high-range blood alcohol readings. Were they male or female, age, what time were they detected etc. On JB’s comment – well clearly they are ‘on top of it’ because these drivers were detected and arrested. Not sure how the Police are expected to prevent drink driving other then by detecting and charging offenders. Now if you want to look at responsible service of alcohol and/or friends looking after each other that is a whole different issue.

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