Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Roads and retrospective rose-tinted reveries

All the media hype about alcohol inevitably leads to discussion on radio. Yesterday there talk about young people drinking and driving and a suggestion that it didn't happen "when I was young". That there are too many funerals of young people. One caller said that they attended 5 such funerals. I had Robert in the car with me listening and was telling him the opposite. When I was young, drinking and driving was far more routine.

Now it could be that the people talking about "when they were young" are much older than me but I don't get that sense. There are a lot of middle-aged folk who have forgotten that their generation drank just as much, smoked far more and did drugs, some the same and some different. Media coverage is probably responsible for creating an impression that the youth of today are causing far more mayhem and loss of life on the roads. But that simply isn't true.

Anyway I promised to show him the statistics.

(The injury rate from crashes with driver alcohol/drugs as a factor, pretty much mirrors fatalities.)

The next graph shows the total road toll from 1960 to 1992.

Clearly there is quite a lengthy history of it being much higher than it is today. I do not have matching statistics for specific crashes with alcohol as a factor but can tell you that in 1973, the peak year, the yearbook has a breakdown for the 'nature of accident' but alcohol isn't even mentioned. That isn't because people didn't drink. It's because there wasn't an official acknowledgement of or focus on the link between drinking and driving.


wino said...

My father used to tell of how he and his mates used to get a rental car to go country pub crawling when he was in his early 20s as they didn't want to dent their own cars! He's be 75 if still alive so not much over 50 years ago drink driving was obviously quite acceptable.
Was also told a story about a pub crawl, a rolled car and a paddock full of bulls at his funeral...

He would never have dreamed of drinking and driving in later years.

Shane Pleasance said...

Do the statistics take into account changes in levels of car ownership, Lindsay?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Shane, No. If the rate of fatal crashes per 100,000 vehicles was calculated and plotted the decline would be steeper.

In 1973 the number of persons killed per 10,000 vehicles was 5.5

By 2008 it had dropped to 1.1 deaths per 10,000 vehicles

Source 1973 Yearbook p 321


For injuries the respective rates were 173.9 and 47.

And to be thorough, the rate of death per 100,000 population in 1973 was 23.7 and in 2008, 8.6

So driving is much safer than it used to be.

JC said...

What people forget is the enormous change in the median age over time. Back in the 60s and 70s the median age was low to mid 20s.. now its 37 and rising fast.

Families averaged over 3 kids per woman compared to less than two now, so we had a hell of a lot of young adults who set the culture of the time.

We forget that drunks were a common sight on the streets, people boiled out of the pubs fighting drunk at 6pm and most drove home or on to parties drunk in charge of old jalopies, workmen were paid cash on a Thursday every fortnight and went immediately to the pub and they drove to work still drunk and hungover next morning.. and no-one raised a fuss.

Civilised drinking hours, warrant of fitness checks, better cars and the aging of that young cohort has changed the way we behave and with it a steadily rising number of police per 10,000 citizens to make the streets and roads safer for the huge increase in tourists.

And although we are behind much of the rest of the 1st world our roads have improved and become safer.. thats been a big part of a lower road toll as well.