Published: Friday, November 30, 2018
How do you want to start 2019? At home, safe with your family? Or dealing with the consequences of drink-driving on a boozy New Year’s Eve? Words: Jeremy Rochow
For a moment, try to imagine your family’s reaction when they receive a knock on the door to be told that you’re never coming home – all because you decided to drive home on New Year’s after having too much to drink.
That’s a worst-case scenario, but drink driving can have lots of life-changing repercussions. You could end up in hospital with serious injuries, in court facing police charges, or dealing with the guilt of killing or injuring another motorist, pedestrian or cyclist.
You’d think those possible consequences would deter people from drink driving, but last New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 74 people were detected in South Australia operating a vehicle while they were affected by alcohol.
More than 440 motorists were charged with drink-driving offences during the 4-week period over the 2017/18 festive season – that’s more than 15 people detected each day.
However, the daily average spiked on 31 December and 1 January, with 37 motorists caught at the wheel each day, while being over the legal alcohol limit.
Almost half had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above, resulting in an automatic licence disqualification and court appearance.
Motorists charged with drink driving last festive season
If a motorist returns a blood alcohol test between .05 and .079 for the first time, they face a $613 fine, a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 4 demerit points. Police may also wheel clamp or impound the offender’s vehicle.
In light of this, RAA road safety expert Charles Mountain has urged revellers to consider the consequences of drink driving this festive season.
“Even the smallest amount of alcohol can affect your driving ability and increase your chances of being involved in a crash,” Mr Mountain said.
“People attending Christmas or New Year’s Eve celebrations should leave their car at home if they’re planning on enjoying a few drinks.
Catch public transport or a taxi, organise a designated driver or plan to stay somewhere for the night.
Drug driving also a problem over the festive period
Police also saw an increase in the number of drivers on drugs over the festive season, with 290 people caught drug driving over the four-week period in 2017-18 – that’s more than 10 a day.
Again, the biggest spike was seen on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with 40 motorists in SA testing positive for an illicit substance.
“These motorists are a risk to themselves, other road users and pedestrians,” Mr Mountain said.
“Some drivers don’t understand the effects these drugs can have on their driving and how long drugs remain detectable in their system.”
Are you the designated driver?
If you put your hand up to be the ‘deso’ driver, make sure you keep that promise. Here are a few quick tips for those who’ve put their hand up to have a booze-free night and get their mates home safely.
1. Don’t drink
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Perhaps you’re thinking “1 drink won’t hurt”, but it’s best not to drink any alcohol if you’re the designated driver.
Just think of the benefits – you’ll be headache-free in the morning and your liver will thank you in the long run.
2. You make the rules
Some people can get a little bit obnoxious when they’ve had a few too many drinks. It’s your car, so don’t take any nonsense from them.
You’re driving and need to be able to concentrate on the road. If they’re being impossibly awkward and annoying while you’re trying to drive, pull over and call a taxi for them.
3. Choose your guest list
Organise who’ll be coming with you before the drinking begins, and make sure there aren’t more passengers than there are seatbelts in your vehicle.
4. Keep plastic bags and water in your car
Some people over-do it during the festive season. Water will keep your guests hydrated, and the plastic bags are for any unforeseen mishaps on the way home.