Apparently the number of drink-driving offenses has increased by 50% over the past five years. Although the police cite increased enforcement for the horrifying increase in numbers, I don’t believe this is entirely true. In 2003, 262 people were killed in road accidents. 191 (73%) were tested for alcohol and 59 (31% of those tested, 23% overall) were over the limit. in 2007, 242 drivers were killed, 196 tested (81%), 56 (29% of those tested, 23% overall) were over the limit. In other words, the proportion of road fatalities in which alcohol may have been a factor has not changed in the five years between 2003 and 2007. The implication being that police action is not reducing the number of drunk drivers.
It may still be that the increase in convictions is due to better police work, but that increase in convictions has not translated into fewer fatalities. It is therefore extremely likely that the extra policing is merely catching more recidivist offenders who then go out and reoffend, despite being fined.
Against this utter disregard for the law exhibited by the reoffenders, the government is considering reducing the blood alcohol limit to 50 mg% (down from the current 80). I have already blogged on the lack of scientific rational for this. Today I merely note that, of the 196 fatalities tested in 2007, only two had blood alcohols between 50 and 80 mg% (and a further two had blood alcohol levels between 30 and 50 mg%). This means that lowering the limit to 50 mg% may reduce the death toll by two. I say may because there is no real way to prove that alcohol was a significant factor in these two deaths.
Interestingly, the comparable figure for 2003 were 5 between 30 and 50 and 5 between 50 and 80 (with 9 between 80 and 100 – down to 3 in 2007). These figures would suggest that there are fewer people driving after drinking, meaning that the adverts and police drink-drinking blitzes are working on “normal” people but having no effect at all on alcoholics. Further reduction of the limit will merely extend this effect rather than stop the recidivists.
So, as far as I can see, the advertising campaigns, large amounts of police time and money and the campaign to reduce the limit are achieving mostly nothing. I reiterate again my call for far more draconian penalties for drink driving and quote my previous post:
“I know I will be called reactionary for this, but it seems plain to me that the answer to drunk driving is not to fiddle with blood alcohol limits. The answer is to get draconian with drunk drivers. I have heard of a person being fined and their license suspended for two years for their sixth offense – an offense that included driving without a license. What was the point of that? Why is drunk driving such a joke to us Kiwis? There is no point in the law being a merepunishment, it needs to be a very scary deterrent.
“First offense: mandatory 6 months in jail, license suspended for five years (laugh that one off!), Alcohol rehab while in jail.
“Second offense: 2 years, license revoked for good. Endorsement on credit rating to make you unable to buy a car on credit.
“Third and subsequent offense: 5 years, Car you were driving confiscated and sold (including the car of anyone foolish enough to lend you one) – any residual moneys goes to victims of drunk drivers fund.
“No home detention, no fines, no PD – just straight jail time. Injuries to other people gets you bumped up a tier (First becomes second offense, second becomes third). Killing someone gets you time for manslaughter (additional 2-5 years) as well as drunk driving charge as per injury.
“Until being a drunk driver is regarded as a crime rather than simply a prattish thing to do, I can’t see we will ever rid ourselves of this scourge to our country. It is obvious that all the expensive TV advertising has been ineffective in changing our thought patterns. Perhaps the heavy hand of the law may do better. ”