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NRMA report highlights drink driving complacency

A new report into drink driving by the NRMA has shown a decade-high spike in the percentage of drivers caught over the limit by random breath testing, with safety concerns raised in the Christmas party season.

Boost the Bus: RBT Every Driver is the 7th report in the NRMA’s Road Safety Series and demonstrates and highlights that of the almost three million random breath tests conducted in 2020, close to 0.5 per cent of drivers returned a positive result.

This is a significant increase from the 0.3 per cent positive rate in 2019 and the highest rate of positive returns since 2011.

The NRMA has played a lead role in addressing the dangers of drink driving over the last 40 years. The organisation lobbied successfully for the introduction of random breath testing in Australia and launched the nation’s first ever education campaigns against the dangers of drink driving.

Last year 54 people lost their lives in alcohol related crashes on NSW roads and 303 were injured. Almost three-quarters (72%) of alcohol-related fatalities were on country roads. Worryingly, fatal crashes involving alcohol increased to 19 per cent in 2020, from 16 per cent in 2016.

Boost the Bus showed that random breath tests conducted on the state’s roads fell by more than half (53%) to 2.8 million tests in a COVID-affected year. The report calls for testing rates next financial year to increase to 1.1 per licence on issue in NSW.

Based on 2020 NSW licence numbers, over seven million tests would need to be conducted in order to achieve at least 1.1 tests per licence on issue which the NRMA believes is achievable in 2022.

The report states that with adequate resourcing and appropriate funding the testing rate in NSW could be increased to at least 1.5 tests per licence on issue.

NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said the spike in drivers blowing over the limit showed that despite decades of hard work in educating the community around the dangers of drink driving complacency might again be setting in among some drivers.

“To most Australians the thought of drink driving is abhorrent and we have come a long way to making the behavior socially unacceptable, however these statistics show that complacency is creeping back in with some drivers and that has to stop immediately,” Mr Khoury said.

“The NRMA is a big supporter of the work done every day by the men and women of the NSW Police in keeping drivers safe on the road and we know how effective random breath testing is at changing bad driver behavior.

“Understandably, the random breath testing regime was impacted heavily by COVID for safety reasons but as these statistics show we need to get the testing numbers back up again, especially during the festive season when so many people are attending work and social events.

“RBTs have been instrumental in drastically reducing the number of alcohol related fatalities over the last 40 years since being introduced in 1982 following extensive campaigning by the NRMA.”

The NRMA welcomed the NSW Government’s $583 million commitment over four years to recruit 1,500 Police and called for Police to be dedicated to reducing the road toll.

“We are seeing record numbers of Police now recruited across the state and it is now critical that they are given the resourcing they need to tackle drink driving and those other forms of bad driver behaviours that we know puts the lives of innocent people at risk,” Mr Khoury said.

The Boost the Bus report also calls for the increase in roadside breath testing to be supported by an education campaign to raise the awareness of the high risk of detection and associated penalties.

With almost three quarters of alcohol related deaths on country roads, it is critical resourcing of RBTs is directed to regional roads to help save lives across the state.

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