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When is a random breath test not random?

By Alderney - 10 April 2012 38

I was driving the diesel Golf southbound along Lady Denman Drive on Saturday afternoon with Mrs and Master Alderney when we happened on a police car blocking all traffic heading in that direction and funnelling it into a car park area for ‘random’ breath testing.

Now, I’m all for the police ensuring that drink impaired drivers are taken off the road. I don’t want to share the road with those so afflicted whilst driving around with my wife and child anymore than most of you, but there was absolutely nothing random about this at all. Every driver travelling along this section of road was subjected to a test.

There was only two police performing the tests, however in the time I was lined up before going on my way, one was otherwise occupied with a driver who it appeared was not in any trouble for his breath analysis, but for some other reason. He was quite obviously not being allowed to go anywhere using his car.

However, apart from a lack of any ‘randomness’ in the testing of drivers, there appeared to be no-one policing any vehicles that might have come around the bend, seen the bank-up of cars with a police van advertising a ‘random’ breath test, and done a u-turn, as any drink impaired driver with a modicum of nous would have done.

So, when did the random go out of random breath test?

For the record I counted (1 to 10) and was allowed on my way.

What’s Your opinion?


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38 Responses to
When is a random breath test not random?
Pork Hunt 12:35 pm 10 Apr 12

Alderney said :

thatsnotme said :

So how do you think a random test should work?

I would have thought use of the word, ‘random’ would be the give away here. Everyone was tested, nothing ‘random’ at all.

Felix the Cat said :

…as long as the pissheads are taken off the road.

Agreed, I think I even said so in the OP.

niftydog said :

I don’t understand why this bothers you.

I’m sorry, did I say it bothered me? Oh that’s right. I forgot about the bit that you know what’s going on in my head more than I do. My apologies.

I’ll leave you with this one. Do philosophers have a problem with things or do they just question, test and theorise?

niftydog said :

Whether they pull up three cars at a time or every single car going down the street has no impact on the randomness of the test.

You obviously have a diferent understanding of the word ‘random’ than the rest of the English speaking world.

MrLinus said :

The time and place they were doing the testing may have been random, it doesn’t have to be which cars are randomly selected from the traffic.

You know, this actually makes sense. Thank you MrLinus for providing another perspective.

Erg0 said :

“Random” is really just a marketing term, intended to give the impression that you could be tested at any time or place. I very much doubt that they decide RBT placement by blindfolding a junior officer and having him throw darts at a map.

I guess even the police aren’t immune to marketing. I’ll leave the sillyness of your second sentence where you left it, except to say there is quite possibly something amiss with the connections in your brain if you read that into my post.

bigfeet said :

Police set up on a stretch of road-they pull over some cars and test them- while they are doing this some cars drive past and are not tested.

Seriously. How much more ‘random’ could it be?

Maybe you should read the bit about me saying everyone was pulled over. Not random.

davo101 said :

The ACT doesn’t have random breath testing. Other jurisdictions, such as NSW, use the term “random breath testing” in their legislation but the ACT doesn’t.

Thanks for that davo, I too read the regs and noticed the absence in use of the actual term. The question then becomes, why do they use it? Surely they could just display breath testing ahead on their roof-top message board instead.

Thanks to the one’s for the decent comments.

In fact, thanks for the not decent one’s too. Let’s me know who the tools are.

Some of you even managed to straddle both sides of the fence. You know that you’ll get splinters in your arse if you stay there too long don’t you.

Not if I’m sitting on a colourbond fence…

AG Canberra 12:27 pm 10 Apr 12

If they want to set up in at the exit of a pub’s car park and test everyone as they leave then that’s just fine and dandy.

And they do do this in the lane in and out of the carpark outside Mooseheads. Nothing random about this – it is based on the ‘bang for your buck’ theory I believe.

Jim Jones 12:27 pm 10 Apr 12

Breath Testing Randoms?

Alderney 12:22 pm 10 Apr 12

thatsnotme said :

So how do you think a random test should work?

I would have thought use of the word, ‘random’ would be the give away here. Everyone was tested, nothing ‘random’ at all.

Felix the Cat said :

…as long as the pissheads are taken off the road.

Agreed, I think I even said so in the OP.

niftydog said :

I don’t understand why this bothers you.

I’m sorry, did I say it bothered me? Oh that’s right. I forgot about the bit that you know what’s going on in my head more than I do. My apologies.

I’ll leave you with this one. Do philosophers have a problem with things or do they just question, test and theorise?

niftydog said :

Whether they pull up three cars at a time or every single car going down the street has no impact on the randomness of the test.

You obviously have a diferent understanding of the word ‘random’ than the rest of the English speaking world.

MrLinus said :

The time and place they were doing the testing may have been random, it doesn’t have to be which cars are randomly selected from the traffic.

You know, this actually makes sense. Thank you MrLinus for providing another perspective.

Erg0 said :

“Random” is really just a marketing term, intended to give the impression that you could be tested at any time or place. I very much doubt that they decide RBT placement by blindfolding a junior officer and having him throw darts at a map.

I guess even the police aren’t immune to marketing. I’ll leave the sillyness of your second sentence where you left it, except to say there is quite possibly something amiss with the connections in your brain if you read that into my post.

bigfeet said :

Police set up on a stretch of road-they pull over some cars and test them- while they are doing this some cars drive past and are not tested.

Seriously. How much more ‘random’ could it be?

Maybe you should read the bit about me saying everyone was pulled over. Not random.

davo101 said :

The ACT doesn’t have random breath testing. Other jurisdictions, such as NSW, use the term “random breath testing” in their legislation but the ACT doesn’t.

Thanks for that davo, I too read the regs and noticed the absence in use of the actual term. The question then becomes, why do they use it? Surely they could just display breath testing ahead on their roof-top message board instead.

Thanks to the one’s for the decent comments.

In fact, thanks for the not decent one’s too. Let’s me know who the tools are.

Some of you even managed to straddle both sides of the fence. You know that you’ll get splinters in your arse if you stay there too long don’t you.

davo101 11:45 am 10 Apr 12

The ACT doesn’t have random breath testing. Other jurisdictions, such as NSW, use the term “random breath testing” in their legislation but the ACT doesn’t. If they want to set up in at the exit of a pub’s car park and test everyone as they leave then that’s just fine and dandy.

bigfeet 11:45 am 10 Apr 12

Police set up on a stretch of road-they pull over some cars and test them- while they are doing this some cars drive past and are not tested.

Seriously. How much more ‘random’ could it be?

p1 11:21 am 10 Apr 12

I think that the police should do more of this type of testing. The only time I have ever objected was when they were set up on Belconnen Way at 8:15am on a weekday, between Aranda and Cook. The traffic was backed up to Kippax…. But even that was probably worth it from a “visibility of policing” stand point – just so long as they don’t do it too often.

Erg0 10:52 am 10 Apr 12

“Random” is really just a marketing term, intended to give the impression that you could be tested at any time or place. I very much doubt that they decide RBT placement by blindfolding a junior officer and having him throw darts at a map.

Skidbladnir 10:36 am 10 Apr 12

Logically, they aren’t totally random.
Police target resources to the occasion, traffic volume, and probability of offenders within a batch of traffic (as evidenced by the fact there are very few RBT operations set up along Paddy’s River Road at 3am midwinter, but on warm long weekends with public gatherings seeing one on the off-arterial roads leading away from the gathering is almost a certainty…)

However all individual vehicles on the road during a scheduled RBT operation, there is a nonzero chance of being selected for a breathalyser event in excess of the usual chance of breath testing if you’re driving eratically.
The chance is heightened for vehicles driving along a stretch of road which hosts a stationary roadside RBT, and once the instantaneous traffic volume exceeds the capacity of the roadside RBT unit then not every car can be selected.
Under those circumstances, some groups or individuals may have higher chances of selection than others, but its up to the bias of officers on the ground to choose who does or does not get selected.

But once they pull you over, if you’re clearly doing something else which is a crime, or the officer has reasonable suspicion of crime, I suspect the officer can investigate further (hence your other driver being delayed, I guess).

How did you think they worked?

Cheap 10:14 am 10 Apr 12

One of the favourite tactics by NSW police is to set up the RBT about 20 or so meters after a small turn off – a police car then waits at the turn off and breath tests any cars that come that way.

MrLinus 10:08 am 10 Apr 12

The time and place they were doing the testing may have been random, it doesn’t have to be which cars are randomly selected from the traffic.

Just because you didn’t see a police car watching for people doing a u-turn doesn’t mean they weren’t there.

niftydog 10:01 am 10 Apr 12

I don’t understand why this bothers you. Whether they pull up three cars at a time or every single car going down the street has no impact on the randomness of the test.

Felix the Cat 9:42 am 10 Apr 12

I saw a similar RBT setup on the Barton Highway just before the turn-off to Ellenborough St on Saturday morning I think it was.

Who cares if it is “random” or not, as long as the pissheads are taken off the road.

Aaroncbr 9:33 am 10 Apr 12

When you’re a p plater uh huh huh huh

thatsnotme 9:23 am 10 Apr 12

The random nature of the breath test is self selecting here. The Police don’t know who will be driving along the road at the time they set up for testing, so the drivers breath tested will be a random selection of people.

Now if the Police pick and choose who they will and won’t test, it’s not so random any more is it? You could bet that young drivers / single male drivers / people driving old cars would be tested, and those who were let go would be older drivers / cars with mum, dad and the kids, etc.

So how do you think a random test should work?

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