ADDICTION medicine physician at Lyndon Withdrawal Unit Rod MacQueen has warned that a push towards a zero blood alcohol limit for all drivers under 25 may simply victimise young drivers.
His warning comes fresh from a Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) recommendation to a government inquiry examining strategies to reduce alcohol abuse in New South Wales.
“For a move like this to be put in place you would have to see evidence that it will work because it’s a fairly big step to take,” he said.
“You have to ask questions. Is it likely to achieve a goal and what is the goal? Is it achievable and will it improve life expectancy and the safety of others?
“You would hope that it’s not a move to punish young people like politicians appear to like doing.
“But if they are overrepresented in this category [fatal crashes] then it’s crucial that we have a duty of care to protect them and work towards better outcomes.”
Steph Lane, 21, holds her full drivers licence and said the introduction of a zero blood alcohol limit was not the solution
“There’s no point in going out if you can only just go there and drink water,” she said.
“If you just had a sip you can’t drive.”
Ms Lane said she believed most alcohol-related accidents would have been caused by drivers that were well over the legal drinking limit.
She said a zero blood alcohol limit would discriminate against drivers like herself.
“If they’re going to bring it in they should for everyone, it’s not just people under 25,” she said.
“It’s not just us that have the accidents.”
In their report FARE revealed that in 2011, 21 per cent of all drivers and motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were aged 17 to 25 years old, despite that age group accounting for only 14 per cent of licence holders.
FARE chief executive Michael Thorn believes inexperience behind the wheel and youth drinking is a recipe for disaster.
“Young people are disproportionately represented in road fatalities,” he said.
“Australian research tells us that new drivers are three times more likely than experienced drivers to be injured in a crash if they have been drinking alcohol.
“Research both here and abroad tells us that a zero BAC (blood alcohol content) for all drivers under 25 years would save lives and reduce the road toll significantly.”
Dr MacQueen said in his work with Lynden Withdrawal Unit he was seeing several other age groups suffer severely from alcohol abuse.
He also wondered if such a restriction would stop people from getting behind the wheel anyway.
“The elderly, especially pensioners with a lot of spare time and working women aged between 30 and 40 are rising in drinking statistics, it’s not just young people,” he said.
“Overall alcohol is a problem for the entire community and the kind of people that are intoxicated and take the risk and drive won’t care if the limit is 0.02 or zero, they’ll do it anyway,” he said.
Mr MacQueen stressed that he believed that if these restrictions would help save lives then he would fully support it. However, he said research was the crucial element to any type of BAC restriction.