Friday, January 09, 2009

Lowering drink/drive limits

The Press appears to be leading a crusade to have the alcohol driving limit lowered. That's OK. The more they agitate and manipulate stats the more opportunity there is to rebutt their claims.

In New Zealand overall road deaths are dropping. The Press say;

Behind the encouraging raw statistic of a lower death toll is the continuing large role of alcohol in road accidents in New Zealand, which makes it welcome that the Government intends to consider lowering the blood-alcohol limit to bring it more into line with levels elsewhere...

...It is worrying too that despite all the publicity about the dangers of drinking and driving, the number being caught over the limit is rising steadily. It has more or less doubled, going from 25,133 in 2003 to 34,700 in the first 11 months of last year alone.

"More or less doubled" is an exaggeration. The rise is closer to 50 percent.

Queensland lowered its blood-alcohol limit and got an 18% fall in road fatalities and a 14% fall in serious accidents.

But are the two related?

Here are NZ's latest road death statistics;

Last 12 months
As at 09 Jan 2009 361
Same time last year 428

That equates to a drop of 16% and we didn't lower the alcohol limit.

In Germany, alcohol-related crashes more than halved.

I can find no substantiation of this beyond one made about Cologne.

Since Germany introduced a 50mg blood alcohol concentration drink-drive limit in 1998, the number of alcohol-related accidents in Cologne has more than halved, and the number of drivers caught with a level of more than 50mg blood alcohol concentration decreased by approximately 25 percent (Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2000, in Alcohol Healthwatch, 2000).

Just as a side comment, if lobbyists are going to use Germany's reducing road toll (similar to ours) as a reason to drop alcohol limits than they should be consistent and use it as a reason to abolish speed limits on the open road.

Seriously, I hope that the new Minister for Transport is going to exercise a rigorous level of scrutiny over claims made in support of lowering our existing limit. We should not be persuaded to do so just because 'that's what they do somewhere else.'


Anonymous said...

I think you have to take into account not only the number of fatalities but also that the number of serious injuries from accidents which is around 3000.

Of the total killed in 2008 the biggest killer was speed 36% followed by 34% where drink driving was a suspected cause. I couldn't find the causes for the 3000 accidents where serious injuries occurred. Without knowing what it is, it is hard to tell whether drink driving should be authorities biggest concern.

The road toll dropped when fuel prices increased. Perhaps people slowed down because their back pocket was hit. If this was the case it seems that people respond to what immediatly impacts on them rather than to future consequences. Perhaps the focus should be on immediate collection of fines from recidivist drivers or collecting their fines through the petrol stations when they purchase petrol.

As for fines, I question whether we need so many speeding cameras in the 50km zones surely the majority of fatalities/serious accidents happen in 70km to 100km zones.


Michael said...

Hungary has a zero alcohol limit for drivers. It also has only 10% more vehicles than New Zealand but three times the number of fatalities.

Anonymous said...

Sports stars ( I use the term loosely) are used on a regular basis to sell alcohol to the great unwashed.

TV presents regular coverage of Trans Tasman motor sport events which promote women as sex objects associated with power and speed.
Then TV advertises cars for sale which will exceed legal speed limits by massive amounts, while at the same time suggesting people exercise common sense.

Its like giving a kid a loaded gun and saying, play with it all you like, but dont pull the trigger!