The real problem

November 14th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins reports:

EVIDENCE HAS emerged that 72% of all alcohol-related deaths on the roads are caused by drivers who are either blind-drunk or repeat offenders.

The research comes during debate over whether the drink-driving limit should be lowered, and ahead of the release of a report investigating drivers who cause the most mayhem.

And remember to be a repeat offender, you have probably driven drunk 50+ times, as at best you only get checked 1 in 50 times you are driving.

The Transport Ministry research shows that in 2009 88 deaths – 72% of all alcohol-related deaths – were caused by 73 drivers who were either at least 50% over the current limit, or who already had a previous conviction.

Of those 88 deaths, 34 people were killed in crashes where the driver at fault had a previous conviction and 57% – or 50 out of 88 deaths – were caused by drivers with twice the legal alcohol limit.

In 2008, 108 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes and 28 of those – 26% were caused by drivers with a previous drink-driving conviction, while 77 deaths – 62% – were caused by drivers who had consumed more than twice the legal alcohol limit.

This is where the focus should go, and it is. Compulsory alcohol interlocks on vehicles owned by a convicted drunk driver are well overdue.

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20 Responses to “The real problem”

  1. tvb (4,247 comments) says:

    Alcohol interlocks is a stupid idea, unless you make it compulsory for all cars and the ones that are not fitted go to Judith (the crusher). The typical repeat drunk driver is a person driving a heap of junk, probably not theirs, unwarranted and unregistered.

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  2. David Farrar (1,871 comments) says:

    Do you have any evidence for that assertion?

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  3. BeaB (2,081 comments) says:

    I have have never been stopped or breath-tested in over 30 years of driving.

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  4. F E Smith (3,314 comments) says:

    David, your suggestion would work for some of the time, but one of the problems that I find is that many repeat offenders are not always driving their own cars when caught subsequently. This may be partly what tvb is referring to.

    This is especially true if a repeat offender has a full blown alcohol addiction, rather than either a having a problem with alcohol or is just an idiot (the first is, obviously addicted, the second isn’t necessarily addicted but cannot control themselves when they do drink, although both are often described as being alcoholic, while the third group are usually young men who are just stupid). When a person begins to rack up the convictions, they will often either lose their own car to confiscation and/or be banned from owning a car for 12 months. So they borrow (with or without permission) other people’s cars. Or ones brought on the cheap and not declared to the authorities, often by not changing the registration details. Which is why the onus should be on the vendor to change the registered owner of a car, not the purchaser.

    Anecdotally, therefore, I can confirm that there is a lot of truth to what tvb has said.

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  5. tvb (4,247 comments) says:

    I stress REPEAT drink driver – is basically lawless and does not care about something as mundane as road safety. You white middle class types in Wellington have no idea who the criminal road users generally are.

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  6. Mr Nobody NZ (397 comments) says:

    I believe the only real solution is for drink driving to carry a minimum sentence of 6 months in prison. No ifs, but’s or why’s if you drink and drive and get caught you will be imprisoned for 6 months. These people are no different from somebody firing a load gun into the air in a built up suburban area, you might get lucky and miss somebody the first time but keep pulling the trigger and sooner of later somebody is going to die.

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  7. projectman (206 comments) says:

    This sort of statistical information has been known from detailed analysis for the last 20-30 years. Nothing has changed, and lowering the blood/breath limit won’t have any impact on the people who have no regard for the law in the first place.

    Having said that, there is also evidence to show that the majority of drivers are definitely impaired in their driving performance well before they get to the current legal limits (80 mg/100mL blood, 400 micrograms/litre breath). For that reason, I am coming round to the view that the limits should be reduced (e.g. to the talked about value of 50mg/100mL, for the blood alcohol value). I doubt it will significantly impact on the people who drink responsibly.

    Now, how can we ensure that only the drunk drivers end up getting killed as a result of their stupidity getting behind the wheel? That was the problem might largely resolve itself over time ;-)

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  8. alex Masterley (1,498 comments) says:

    i agree with TVB, and any-one who deals with drink drivers would too.
    Recidivist drink drivers do not give a shit about who what where or when they drive of they have a load of booze on board.
    This sort of data has been around for years.
    Pity the herald hasn’t found it.

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  9. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    I’d still like to see the evidence that reducing the limit to .05 will cause fewer deaths on the roads.

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  10. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    Too many opinions, and not enough sensible research done as yet.

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  11. tvb (4,247 comments) says:

    It is not uncommon for REPEAT drink drivers to be disqualified drivers. That is they should not be driving AT ALL. So all your interlocks and any other white middle class idea does not deal with that.

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  12. burt (8,023 comments) says:

    OK, with an alcohol interlock what is to stop me from throwing a scuba tank and reg into the can and using a bit of duct tape with the reg and the interlock mouthpiece set it up so every time it says blow – I blow with the reg. ?

    If it would work then the system will only work for law abiding people, which recidivist drink drivers are not.

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  13. redeye (638 comments) says:

    “72% of all alcohol-related deaths on the roads are caused by drivers who are either blind-drunk or repeat offenders.”

    What a stupid statistic.

    100% of all alcohol-related deaths on the roads are caused by drivers who are alcohol impaired.

    That’s where the focus should go!

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  14. simpleton (158 comments) says:

    Helped a neighbour clean up a property who had eerily left the house and his work with his family and basics.

    There were at least 4 cars that had accumulated in the back yard during that year, not one was warranted or registered for that year, by at least 2 years. I was surprised the cars superficially looked to be in quite reasonable order, though details like worn tyres, a missing wheel or 2, or part of a motor, obviously raided to keep another car going.

    In one of the cars there was issuance account of overdue fines of over $11,000 of fines and we also realized that he was still disqualified to drive. ! ! ! and he we knew he had been caught a number of times before with high alcahol readings DIC

    Yet he drove off to pastures anew.

    The property had also taken a pounding, as walls and doors had holes kicked or punched in, all camofaged by posters or such.

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  15. Sandy (47 comments) says:

    Interlock schemes work if they target high BAC 1st offenders not second ones as proposed, and so long as the program is comprehensive and funded. To those saying people circumvent such schemes no they don’t – see NZ BADDs website as that good lady has done her homework. They work when they are supported by a database of offenders that Police and social services monitor closely for compliance – same as they should any homicide wannabes. If Labour had half a clue about the wowser bandwagons it boards, then it’d promote an evidence based package to strengthen what the Nats have begun.
    What is missing is
    1) a utilised vehicle forfeiture scheme with no ability to reregister, took NY to the lowest drunk deaths per capita (here despite mandatory forfeits for 2nd offenders, miscreant ill educated Judges take only 500 out of 10,000 available cars – p.a.)
    2) a transport allowance for addicts bus and taxi needs, as is provided for in some US States via methadone clinics etc
    3) credible penalties, here it is fine, then fine, then community service, then community detention, then home detention and finally on offence 10 maybe jail. Clearly this is not treated criminally in NZ yet. Nat is upping penalties for killers but for prevention it needs to smarten them up for pre-killers. Unfortunately lawyers, Drs, liquor stores, checkpoint fine scavengers etc like the fringe fiscal benefits WAY too much to advocate for real counter measures. Keep milking family trauma – yeah!
    Regardless, Nationals ground breaking legislation, targeting repeat and high BAC offenders is the most important road safety guff tabled in over a decade. Labour is extremely silly trying to smoke and mirror that, while pushing for a killer 0.05 policy just to scire points with the indoctrinated but clueless. Naaasty socialists – what is the greatest thing in the world to them, not people buuuuuuut…. politicians wins. Look at the efforts of the tacticians to get 0.05 point scoring over the Nats.

    From the 2 drinks max website is a run down, oddly getting the thumbs up from supposed 0.05 pledge signatories.

    1. “On 1 March 1998, the Danish per se limit was lowered from 0.08 to 0.05% BAC for motor vehicle drivers…this has not resulted in a marked decrease in the proportion of injury accidents with impai…red motor vehicle drivers (BAC>/=0.05%) compared to all injury accidents. On the contrary, the proportion of fatal accidents with drink-drivers compared to all fatal accidents has increased in the after-period – Danish Transport Research Institute. Ref – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12729815

    2. In Northern Territory (comparable for indigenous substance problems and bad safety spec bush roads) under 0.05 the portion of the road toll due to alcohol has risen in the last 5 years to 76% from a prior 45%. (NT Police Alcohol Policing Strategies, editions 2006 and 2010)

    3. In Victoria the introduction of 0.05 doubled deaths in 20-30 year olds over 3 years of ever increased ticketing, and other age groups remained static – very very sadd.
    See graph 3 for what a 44% increase in ticketing under 0.05 did – oh the slaughter that occurred while non revenue grubbing lands actually work to reduce offences and trauma.
    http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/jsp/content/NavigationController.do?areaID=6&tierID=3&navID=91C67AC87F00000100716FA042BED8C1&navLink=null&pageID=23

    4. In Queensland reduced average blood alcohol concentrations in the driver population were not sustained after an initial post law cut back by drivers.

    5. Conformity is no reason to change, the many countries with 0.05 are mostly having higher death rates than us for drink driving per capita, and the lowest drink driving death tolls per capita are found in 0.08 jurisdictions (UK, Utah, NYC).
    Only Victoria of the 0.05ers comparable to NZ NOW has a comparably low rate to the 0.08 success countries but this was only due to reducing cannabis consumption by drink drivers (which doubles therir risk) via random drug testing since 2004. Bought in because 0.05 had been such a set back to safety of the risk group of 20-30′s.

    6. It is not possible for a drop to 0.05 to produce the same life savings as the drop to 0.08 did because risks at this level are so much lower that these 0.05-8ers only produce half a percent of the toll by virtue of their impairment versus “woulda happened anyway”.
    Safer Journeys regulatory impact statement gives the game away that the Officials know 15-33 lives saved is a lie, as it states that if 0.05-8 deaths were reduced under a new regime this would be odffset by an increase in dead “sober drivers”. In other words the people found dead at 0.05 – 8 would still die anyway as drink didn’t cause it.

    Grand Rapids Effects Revisited: Accidents, Alcohol and Risk, by Krüger et al of IZVW 2003 presented the first reliable estimation of the alcohol-related accident risk in Germany. For BAC’s less than 0.6, the AR is small, overall negative. Hardly any accidents involving drivers with those BAC’s can be attributed to intoxication (and some are apparently prevented by “intoxication” at low levels).
    For BAC’s greater than 0.6 but under 0.8 about 70% of all accidents are due to alcohol versis other risk factors. For all BAC classes greater than 0.8, the AR’s are greater than 80%. For drivers in the high BAC categories, nearly all the accidents may be attributed to the effects of alcohol.
    The study concluded like the original definitive Grand Rapid study which set 0.8 as ideal that measures directed at drivers with BAC’s less than 0.8 cannot be very effective. As at most with a zero limit, 4% of the 10.8% of all German accidents that are truly attributable to the effects of alcohol, after the influences of other factors are discounted, may be prevented i.e. UNDER HALF A PERCENT OF ACCIDENTS (in the best scenario eg no rise in chases) would be prevented by further toughening up.

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  16. GPT1 (2,103 comments) says:

    Interlocks might help in a small number of cases but it really is only window dressing.

    As noted above the real problem is that people keep breaking the law – driving pissed and disqualified often as not.

    This is one of those rare situations where they maximum penalty for EBA in the aggravated form has to go up. Not because I have any real hope that it will stop the problem but 16 months for, say, 18th EBA (24 months less 1/3 for gp) doesn’t really give society the break it deserves from such people. The sentencing regime works OK for a handful of convictions but there are some careerists out there with little interest in the lives of others on the roads.

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  17. penllynboy (8 comments) says:

    ” OK, with an alcohol interlock what is to stop me from throwing a scuba tank and reg into the can and using a bit of duct tape with the reg and the interlock mouthpiece set it up so every time it says blow – I blow with the reg. ?

    If it would work then the system will only work for law abiding people, which recidivist drink drivers are not.”

    Most modern interlocks require an amount of training for use. They have ‘hum’ features that you are required to do when breathing into the device. Circumvention by compressed air is not possible. All attempts to circumvent the device are recorded by the interlock. It can also be programmed to disallow ignition if there are circumvention attempts.

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  18. Sandy (47 comments) says:

    Right on. Labour ignored all these evidence based types of policy and was militantly anti road safety and pro revenue. I hear there is an upcoming publication on this so the rats will be outed. And so the saga continues with it’s 0.05 silliness, it doesn’t know where its liabilities lie – so arrogant and over confident it still is. Real world evidence – ignition interlock programs save lives.

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  19. Pete George (23,310 comments) says:

    Having said that, there is also evidence to show that the majority of drivers are definitely impaired in their driving performance well before they get to the current legal limits (80 mg/100mL blood, 400 micrograms/litre breath). For that reason, I am coming round to the view that the limits should be reduced (e.g. to the talked about value of 50mg/100mL, for the blood alcohol value).

    I agree on the statement on 80mg, it seems it could be too high. But I’m not convinced about 50mg being the right cut-off level. As it is now 79mg is almost certainly too impaired, but is 51mg? 80 and 50 aren’t the only options, I’d like to see more information about what is the best compromise for the borderline cases (which may only be a small part of the problem anyway).

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  20. F E Smith (3,314 comments) says:

    So why not make it really easy, then, and go to absolute zero tolerance? Quit making excuses about statistical evidence or lack of it and just admit that a policy decision is being made for no other reason than an excess of caution.

    And then, while you are at it, put speed limiters on all cars so they can’t go over 100kmh.

    And perhaps permanent GPS data tracking so the Police can obtain data from your car when necessary…

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