You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone!

All of us who have a driver’s licence, especially those who have had it for some time, probably take it for granted. 

Some of you may have had the odd speeding offence, where you lost some demerit points, but the majority of us have probably not lost our licence.  If you take time to consider what impact on your life the loss of your driver licence would be, it becomes quite a scary thought!

Suddenly you lose your independence and become dependant on others for transport. This may include going to and from work, going to and from sporting engagements, travelling to and from entertainment venues, not to mention driving your children or grandchildren to their various sporting and other extracurricular activities.  

You may even have an elderly relative whom you need to care for or visit. 

Suddenly, your life can dramtically change for the worse.

Financial Impact

Loss of your licence also can have a significant financial impact upon you, especially if you need to catch taxis. Unfortunately, in the MidCoast Council area we do not have an over abundance of public transport to rely upon. 

If you attend court on any Tuesday, there will be an endless line of those who tell the Magistrate they have made ‘mistakes’ unintentionally.

A common ‘mistake’  is that made by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It doesn’t take many drinks to reach the limit of 0.05 which is the threshold for drinking and driving. For the first offence you can be fined up to $1,100.00 and have an automatic licence disqualification of six months if you have a low range prescribed concentration of alcohol (pca).  

A mid-range pca is from 0.08 to 0.15 where you can be fined up to $2,200.00, jailed for nine months and you’ll automatically lose your licence for twelve months.  

It gets considerably worse if you are caught drinking and driving at a high range pca level, that is 0.15 or more. You can be fined $3,300.00, go to jail for 18 months and automatically be disqualified from driving for three years. That is a long time.  

Further, if you are convicted of a higher range pca offence, there is a mandatory interlock program which means that you have an interlock device fitted to your car at considerable expense to you, which also requires recalibrations on a regular basis, at further expense.

Judging One Too Many

It is very hard to guess what level of alcohol is in your system when you drive. It all depends on a number of factors including how much you have had to eat, your weight, the level of alcohol in the drink, the size of the glass, the period of time over you consuming the alcohol, the time you had your last drink. The variables go on and on. 

Who really pays any attention to the level of alcohol in wine? Some wines have 11% and some wines can be greater than 16%. Spirits also vary. So, the golden rule really must be, if you are going to drive then you just don’t drink. 

Females for example, can have a much higher content of alcohol in their system than men for the same amount consumed. This will be aggravated if the drink you are consuming is carbonated, such as champagne or a spirit with a carbon-based additive such as a cola or soda.

How Much Is Too Much?

The difficulty we face after consuming alcohol, either at a restaurant or a party, is that we have no real idea as to what level we are.  You may feel fine, but you are just kidding yourself. The attitude of the Court often is that, if you were at the medium to high range then you should know that you should not be driving because of the level of your intoxication. The difficulty is that your level of judgement is impaired. 

Further, tiredness can affect your ability to drive in the same way as drugs and alcohol.  There is no offence for driving when tired, however, many accidents occur as a result of tiredness.

Have you seen the advertising campaigns on television? What is hard to understand is, that if the responsible government were serious in educating people not to drink and drive, then why aren’t people able to monitor their level of alcohol?  One suggestion could be that every outlet that serves alcohol, such as restaurants or hotels, could provide an ‘alcoholmeter’ to measure the alcohol level. At least then you would know whether you are under or over and would not be trying to guess.

The Police certainly have very accurate mechanisms to measure your alcohol level but we do not.

How Can We Know?

I do not understand why there is not the provision of alcohol measuring devices freely available for all. The objection could be that if you have a higher reading and drive then you could blame the device. That’s simply cured by changing the legislation to prevent you from relying upon such evidence. 

So why doesn’t the government make a zero-alcohol level?  We would then all know that if we had one drink then we should not drive.  It would be very clear. I suspect the answer is, that the politicians do not wish to upset the alcohol lobby.  Just a guess.

I suppose you could say that if you are going to drive then you should not have alcohol to drink. That, however, is too sensible and rarely happens as we all know. A reliable designated driver remains the best option.

How To Check?

Next time you see your local politician ask them why there is no level playing ground in being able to ascertain your blood alcohol level. Ask them why the alcohol tolerance for driving should not be zero, and further, ask them whether they are serious about this problem.  

From where I sit in the courtroom it is getting worse and the current system and deterrents do not appear to be working. 

The other aspect which you need to consider, is that if you are arrested for driving with an illegal substance in your system, similar penalties apply.  In some cases, the actual effect of the drug may have worn off and in reality, may not be affecting your driving ability.  But, you can, however, still lose your licence. This is the case with cannabis. It does seem a little crazy that other harder substances do not stay in your system as long as cannabis, even after the effect of the drug has worn off.

I haven’t even mentioned the collateral damage that losing your licence or injuring someone whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs can cause. That is whole other tragic story!

If in doubt. Don’t.

James Paton

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