Like the legislation that imposed the compulsory wearing of seat belts, random breath testing has proved another life saver.
This week marks the 30th anniversary of random breath-testing (RBT) being introduced in NSW.
And to celebrate police have increased the amount of breath-testing they are undertaking as the Christmas party season hits top gear.
According to the NSW police force there are now 70 per cent fewer deaths on the state’s roads with RBT playing its part to save lives. Since its introduction there have been 85 million breath tests across the state.
On December 17, 1982, when random breath-testing was introduced by the former police minister, the late George Paciullo, the state’s annual road toll had reached 1253.
Last year 364 people died on the state’s roads. While the death rate has dropped significantly, the road toll is still too high.
Random breath-testing’s worth is two fold.
Firstly, more than 545,000 drivers have been charged with drink-driving offences over the 30-year period. Removing these dangerous drivers from the road has made our roads safer.
Secondly, the threat of being caught
has been a major deterrent to many other drivers who have elected to do the right thing and not get behind the wheel after drinking.
Despite the constant publicity surrounding police catching drink-drivers and the penalties imposed by the courts, there is still a large number of people who break the law.
They either believe they won’t be caught, believe they are under the limit when they are not, or have no regard for the safety of other people and themselves.
Random breath-testing has been an outstanding success.
The challenge now is to curb the excessive consumption of alcohol in society which contributes to so many other misdemeanours, including malicious damage, violence, and in some cases death.
The significant health issues and their subsequent cost to the health budget is another reason for action.
Education plays an important part in this process, but so does law enforcement. The police need to be more proactive to catch the drunks on our streets who are causing the trouble, even though they are not behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.