Source: The Australian, 6 January, 1998, p.5


Kennett
takes low
road with
.02 limit

By RACHEL HAWKS

   ALL States and Territories 
yesterday rejected a Kennett 
Government proposal to 
review the .05 blood alcohol 
driving limit, leaving Victoria 
isolated in a possible move to 
reduce it to .02.

   As the Federal Government 
warned it would be pointless 
changing blood alcohol laws 
unless a consensus was 
reached among States, the 
relevant State ministers argued 
.05 was a "reasonable limit".

   A spokesman for NSW Roads 
Minister Carl Scully said the 
.05 regime-standard across 
the nation-was working 
effectively and there were no 
plans to introduce a virtual 
zero limit.

   "However, if Victoria went 
down that track we would 
certainly look on with 
interest," the spokesman 
added.

   To stay under .O5,males can 
consume two standard drinks 
in the first hour and one every 
hour after, while females can 
have one drink in the first 
hour and one thereafter.

   At .02 only one standard drink 
can be consumed.

   A spokesman for Queensland 
Transport Minister Vaughan 
Johnson said .02 was "not on 
our agenda" as the State had a 
record low road toll with 359 
deaths last year, while similar 
feedback was received from 
remaining States and 
Territories.

   Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett 
said at the weekend blood 
alcohol laws in his State were 
under review, and the limit 
could be reduced to .02 as part 
of a broader strategy to reduce 
the road toll.

   In Victoria, 376 people died 
on the roads last year. 
Nationwide, about 1763 
people lost their lives.

   Motoring organisations and 
police expressed concern 
that .02 would create 
problems for people on 
prescription drugs and for 
those who ate chocolate 
containing alcohol.

   Medical experts said yesterday 
a virtual zero policy would 
not substantially impact on 
the number of road accidents 
or deaths.

   Director of Drug and Alcohol 
Services at St Vincent's 
Hospital in Melbourne, Greg 
Whelan, said the .05 
legislation was based on the 
fact that when a driver's blood 
alcohol limit rises to that 
level, the risk of having a road 
accident doubles.

   Above .05 the risk rapidly 
climbs, so that by .15 people 
are almost certain to have an 
accident, Professor Whelan 
said.

   "Between 0 and .05 there is a 
gradual increase in risk of 
having an accident, but that 
rise is quite slow and there is 
not an obvious spot in which 
you would say we should 
make it this level," Professor 
Whelan said.

   "The reason for making it .05 
is that is when the risk tends 
to much more rapidly take 
off."

   Professor Whelan said research 
showed that more accidents 
occur at a .08 blood alcohol 
limit, but he did not believe 
reducing the rate below .05 
would slash the road toll.

   "Intuitively one would not 
think it would have an 
enormous impact," he said.

   "I think speed, fatigue, the 
state of our roads as well as 
blood alcohol have to be taken 
into account to bring about a 
substantial reduction."

   A spokesman for federal 
Transport Minister Mark 
Vaile said yesterday the 
national road toll was at 
historically low levels, but 
while deaths were still 
occurring all options should 
be explored.

   He said any change should be 
reflected through research and 
done on a uniform basis.


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