Good news – the NZ Government wants to look at reducing the drink driving limit from 0.8 g/l to 0.5 g/l.
It’s been 0.5g/l in Australia for years – folk over 40 will remember Peter Brock always had had 05 on his car, as that was the limit for drink driving.
But is it the right solution?
The problem is that we just don’t know whether 0.8g/l is ok for you and yet 0.01g/l is not ok for me. The problem is also that there are so many other reasons why one could be impaired – fatigue, drugs – legal and illegal, phone, screaming kids, adjusting the radio and a lousy vehicle.
So should we be judged on our alcohol levels in blood, or on our actual on the road behaviour? Here are three alternatives to the current policy – what do you think?
By setting a limit above 0.0% g/l we are promoting the thought that some drinking is ok when you are in charge of a motor vehicle. It’s not. Any alcohol in your system means that your ability to drive is affected. I can feel myself being adversely affected after just one beer, and on a motorcycle it is particularly dangerous.
If you had asked me 10 years ago I certainly would have reacted against the thought of 0.0% as a limit, but after working in a zero tolerance environment I now understand the reasoning. It’s simply that it is dangerous to yourself and to others to operate machinery when you are impaired. It is also so simple in practice – you just don’t drink.
A Zero Tolerance environment is much easier to police – both on the road but far more importantly at a social event. If you see one of your friends drinking anything then that means they are not driving. It also applies if they take anything else that could affect their judgement.
The Case for Zero Testing
Some people are able to drink and drive safely, and even do so at relatively high levels of alcohol. This occurs a lot in other countries, such as Italy, where the driver will drive safely and slowly, is 100% focused on the road (and not answering cell phones, chatting and so forth) and poses no threat to himself or others.
So is it really wrong to drive home drunk if you are driving well below the safe speed and when others know that you are impaired?
Here’s a proposal. If you have had anything to drink, then you can still drive, but must do three things:
- Place large florescent “D” signs on the front, sides and back of your car – signifying that the driver is under the influence, and that others should give space
- Drive at no more than 40kmph in cities and 75kmph in rural zones
- Never ride a motorcycle, never drive at rush hour
I found in my recent trip in Australia that a “P” plate was a solid indication that the driver was likely to be an idiot, and so I stayed well clear. Similarly with a “D” sign – other drivers will stay well clear and give you the space to survive.
Meanwhile police can easily identify the impaired drivers and pay special attention to how they are driving. Any hooning while impaired, speeding over the D limits or driving impaired without D signs can be harshly dealt with.
The case for increasing driving monitoring
Why not abandon alcohol testing and simply be more rigourous on monitoring driving quality by increasing the ability of police and public to catch people that are driving poorly? Let’s use the natural increase of cameras in society to allow police to monitor more roads at once. It’s Big Brother, but he is here already and by proposing it now we can do it right.
- Make it easy to send videos of idiot drivers to police – e.g. we can expect in-car video recording systems (make them evidential quality) to increase sharply in popularity over the next few years, and passengers can use cell phones to take videos – give them somewhere to send them to.
- Increase fixed location roadside surveillance cameras, place them in known hoon areas and go after idiots.
- Use remote cameras before and after police checkpoints to check for and pull over idiot drivers.
- Roll out in-car monitoring of speed and location – and give registration rebates to people that voluntarily set up their systems to report on instances where the driver exceed 115% of the speed limit in a location. Alternatively give ACC rebates to businesses that do the same for their vehicles, and push for insurance companies to do the same with premiums.
Note that it is dangerous driving that we should be focussed on – not low-level speeding in a safe way.