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