Was it a one off lapse?

NZ Herald reported:

A West Coast man committing his 18th drink-driving offence when overtaking a police car has told a court he didn’t stop because he did not want to have to leave his motorbike to the mercy of thieves.

Overtaking a Police car is rather stupid. Doing it while drunk is even more stupid. Refusing to stop another step up the dumb ladder, and then claiming you were worried your motorbike would be stolen takes the cake.

Longjohn William Sheenan, 64, had a breath-alcohol level of 943mg when he finally stopped after a 1.6km pursuit on December 18, Greymouth District Court was told yesterday.

That is well over double the limit.

Judge Raoul Neave said that the 24-year gap between Sheehan’s 17th and 18th drink-driving offences had saved him from jail. …

“You have not previously offended this century and I am prepared to accept that this was one-off lapse of judgment, although a very silly one. I also accept that you have done your best to put your chequered past behind you.”

The Judge is probably right to give him the benefit of the doubt, as 24 years is a long time.

However if I had to lay money on it, I’d say Mr Sheenan has driven drunk many times over the last 24 years, and just hasn’t been caught. Very very few people get done for the only time they do it.

According to ALAC:

Police estimate that each day in New Zealand, approximately 5,923 compulsory breath tests and 2,743 mobile breath tests are undertaken and 100 people are charged with drink driving (New Zealand Police, 2010).

So on average there are 8,500 breath tests a day. Now if each day there are 850,000 motorists driving about, then you get breath tested on average 1 in 100 times. Based on my experience, it is even less often that that.

So if you drink drive once per month, then you could easily go a decade without being caught, on average.

Now also consider that to have racked up 18 drink drive convictions, the possibility he has driven drunk over 1,000 times. Of course there are other factors, such as Police may target you if known to be a problem, and bad driving may get you pulled over more often. But still 18 convictions still implies a huge number of times driving when drunk.

The AA quotes US research that

An American study quoted by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) found that drink drivers in the US have driven drunk on average 87 times before being caught.

As I said, I think Mr Sheenan is fortunate to avoid jail, especially as he refused to pull over.

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