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 (4,418 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 (1,894 comments) says:

    Do you have any evidence for that assertion?

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  3. BeaB (2,123 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 (3,305 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 (4,418 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 (391 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 (224 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 (1,517 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 (2,307 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 (4,418 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 (8,269 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 (629 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 (224 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. GPT1 (2,121 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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  16. 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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  17. Sandy (44 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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  18. Pete George (23,559 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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  19. F E Smith (3,305 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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