My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Tue
18
Sep '12

Lowering the BAC from .05 to .02

This topic brings to light one inherent problem in Australia that I struggle with as an American-Australian. First if I might… Australia claims to be a “free” country but the bureaucratic government here, based solely on the English parliament, leaves little to be desired in the way of “Australians making decisions, and in fact laws for themselves”. There is no medium here for the people, the constituents to vote into law any type of regulation or directive whatsoever. So the question is: “When we vote for a party, be it Liberal or Labour, what are we voting for actually?” Because the actual people of Australia have no say in law as it is made by voting as a public entity – how do issues turn into law. Well it seems that it is up to the parliament members that we vote into office to be responsible for voting on our behalf. Parliament members, just like in America, make lots of empty promises and dodge important issues to the community such as adoption, gay marriage, public job pay increases, or changes to the taxes. Never in the course of the 7-1/2 years I have lived here have I ever seen a referendum come to a vote by the people.

Recently there has been talk of dropping the already low BAC from .05 to a staggering .02 – and basically this means that possibly even one drink could put you over the limit to drive. The task here is to make it so people will not drink and drive at all. This is not something that the people of our state will vote on, we do not get a say, if the parliament wants it to happen, it will pass and it will happen.

Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state, and has a highly centralised population, with almost 75% of Victorians living in Melbourne, the state capital and largest city. In Victoria there are is an annual average of < 42 fatalities of a total 200 relating to a blood alcohol level of .05 or over. In 2011 in the whole of Australia the road toll nationally was 1,291 in total.

Look, it’s not that I don’t support a responsible drink driving limit, but I do find fault in the Australian government for consistently punishing the people that do the right thing and enabling an entire generation of people that don’t.

Binge drinking in Australia has become a very big problem; this is something that the government is fully aware of but continues to do nothing about. Responsible drinking starts at the beginning. And taxing alcohol ‘in general’ really puts a strain on the groups of people that are responsible drinkers. We are constantly hearing on the news about alcohol mixed with energy drinks (Vodka Red Bull) and in Australia we also have what is called pre-mix cans. A 6-pack of cans you can purchase at the bottle shop already pre-mixed with things like Vodka Red Bull or other high alcohol options mixed with high caffeine energy drink products. This is what the kids drink, none of these types of pre-mixes are geared toward or even advertised for adults. They are sweet tasting drinks that keep you drunk and awake for longer and in the end are a majority of reasons why fatal fights break out in the city centres around Australia. These drinks are served in bars, and because the drinking age is 18 here – they are served to 18 year old kids.

So why aren’t we focusing our attention to irresponsible drinkers? Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the drinking age or banning such pre-mix drinks (like the US has done). It seems like every time the government wants to take a stand on drinking in general – they add another tax onto alcohol, rather than looking at the real problem. These taxes don’t discourage kids from drinking but they do cause hardships on working adults that have to pay $80-100 for a case of beer. You can’t get even a 6-pack of the crappiest beer for under $15.00 here. The same ‘taxing mentality’ to cigarettes has driven the cost for a pack of cigarettes up to $25 a pack – and it hasn’t stopped anyone I know from smoking.

I know I’ve said this before but there is just something wrong about turning 18 in this country, the first year you are old enough to drink is the same year you are allowed to start driving. How are our children to learn responsibility when they are giving two of the biggest responsibilities in their lives in the same year… and at 18 for that matter, one of the most immature of ages? If we are able to turn our attention to the real problem of “binge drinking teenagers” and start to teach our children to be responsible drinkers we might actually get somewhere with this.

A culture of pre-mix drinks geared toward a much younger generation

   

At least in America you are learning to drive at an age before you are too confident and ‘know everything’ to the extent of being as reckless as some 18-21 year olds. And although we did drink when we were young, in high school for example, we weren’t able to go to bars and night clubs that stay open all night and drink until we were stupid high on energy drinks and hard alcohol. We had some time between learning the responsibilities of the road and road rules, and starting to drink – 5 years as a matter of fact. Can you imagine taking on all of the responsibilities that go with drinking, and driving in the same year?

And back to the question at hand… really what are the benefits of .02 BAC? Certainly it keeps drinkers off the road – that can only be a good thing. Making this change as Switzerland has done definitely means that the road toll will decline. But for those that are responsible, and want to have a glass of wine with their dinner out, or meet friends for a drink in the city after work, there are no options. Public transport such as trains and trams end at midnight, a cab from the city to my house is over $100. I’d say about 90% of Melbournians do not live walking distance from a bar, pub or restaurant, we are much more rural community. The majority of the restaurant/pub industry is in the city centre. I think that it means that the bar and restaurant business in Melbourne will suffer some great losses. This industry is one of the best in Australia and it means that our culture will change to one that does not include having a drink with your meal and sharing a drink with friends. BAC .02 definitely means no drinking.

For me it all comes down to a change in the attitude of our parliament members, in the way that they think and lead this country. We have no say, obviously, but until parliament can put their hand up and take responsibility for what is going wrong – and by that I mean turning our attention to the problems we are now instilling in our younger generation with behaviour toward alcohol, and not creating taxes and new laws to increase the cost of alcohol for the general public – will change finally result in a positive outcome.

Read more…

Move to .02 drink-drive limit inevitable: expert by Danny Rose, Brisbane Times –
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/move-to-02-drinkdrive-limit-inevitable-expert-20100315-q7nk.html

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