CARR Title

DRINK-DRIVING

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THIS HAS TO BE BANNED OUTRIGHT

Commercial and private pilots are not permitted to drink alcohol 8 hours or less before flying. Virtually everybody would agree that they would be very reluctant to be passengers in an aircraft whose pilot had been on the booze 10 minutes before flying, even if his Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was less than the legal motorist limit of 0.05.

Piloting aircraft is far safer and often easier than driving cars. I can very confidently assert this, I was a licensed commercial charter pilot for decades. Furthermore, the minimum lateral separation between aircraft in controlled airspace is 5 nautical miles - a whopping 9km. The vertical separation minimum is 1000 metres - 1km. So there is virtually no danger of collision, apart from when aircraft are in the circuit pattern of an airport and even then, the separation criteria are quite large and aircraft are under the supervision of the tower controllers.

WOULD YOU GO FLYING WITH A DRUNK PILOT?

The following video clip is a prank, but have a look at the faces of the passengers, who were very happy to go for a helicopter joyflight until they saw the "pilot", decked out in a uniform drive up in his car and hitting a garbage bin, then taking a swig out of a bottle in a brown paper bag and staggering over to try to put on a parachute and helmet. He dropped the sunvisor over his eyes and pretended that he could not see anything and then staggered into a barrier. Of course the passengers simply refused to even contemplate flying with this "pilot" and it was hilarious to see their faces when this comedian showed them the hidden camera and they realised that they were victims of a prank.


Drunk helicopter pilot

Nobody in their right mind would dream of flying with a pilot who was so obviously drunk, but one can go to any hotel car park and see patrons and their friends stagger to their vehicles after a heavy drinking session and drive off with no hesitation. Drunken idiots like this cause utter carnage on the roads, not only killing or maiming themselves and their passengers, but killing innocent motorists in other vehicles or pedestrians walking along footpaths.

In that prank video clip, when that "pilot" takes a slug out of his bottle in the brown paper bag, the look of horror on the faces on those joyflight passengers is priceless. But if you showed that video clip of the drunken pilot to any of these people, they would all agree that they would never step into an aircraft that he was piloting, but these same people often get into cars with their friends when they are drunk and they drive on the roads, creating an unacceptable menace to other motorists and pedestrians. This has to stop.

DRINK-DRIVING STATISTICS

Driving under the influence of alcohol is an enormous factor in road accidents and fatalities. Here are the figures from NSW.

20% OF ALL FATAL ACCIDENTS IN NSW INVOLVE DRINK-DRIVING

The hard statistics clearly show that in NSW, one out of every five fatal accidents involves a drink-driver. Of course there are countless accidents involving drink-driving that do not involve fatalities, but are responsible for serious and permanent injuries, such as loss of limbs, paraplegia, quadriplegia, brain damage and other severe trauma. Most of those injuries would have been completely avoided if drivers did not have their faculties impaired by alcohol. These horrifying statistics are much the same in other states.

Single car crash causing fatality
A typical single car crash causing fatality

Single vehicle accidents such as the above photo graphically depicts simply should not happen unless the cars had catastrophic tyre blowouts or suffered steering failure at high speed, which is highly unlikely. Apart from possibly swerving to avoid hitting an animal on the road or fainting behind the wheel, there is no legitimate explanation for these accidents. Alcohol or narcotics may have played a part in these single vehicle crashes, as it is known that alcohol is a factor in at least 20% of car accidents.

Speed itself is not dangerous, but driving beyond the capability of the road and being affected by booze or drugs are major factors in such accidents. Nobody can legislate against stupidity and as long as people drive in a stupid manner and under the influence of intoxicating substances, then this carnage will continue.

CAR SEPARATION AT SPEED IS TINY

In controlled airspace, lateral separation between aircraft is a minimum 5 nautical miles, which is just over 9km. The maximum speed for aircraft 5000 feet and below is 250 knots. So if we compare the ratio of an aircraft's maximum speed to its minimum separation from other aircraft and applied it to cars travelling at 100 kph, the separation between them should be a minimum of 2 metres.

But unlike the large separation criteria in aviation, a motorist can legally drive a car at 100 kph on an undivided road, with nothing except the width of the painted line separating him from oncoming cars that are also going at 100 kph in the opposite direction. That driver can legally have a Blood-Alcohol level of up to 0.05, which will take the edge off his ability to concentrate and impair him making instantaneous decisions affecting his safety and the safety of others on the road.

But what are the penalties for drivers with higher Blood-Alcohol levels? In NSW, the penalty for Low Range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) is $1,100. So a motorist with enough booze in him to really make him lose the plot on the road risks paying that fine - if he is caught, of course.

Many motorists are caught with High Range PCA, often well above 3.00, which is usually enough alcohol in the blood to kill or severely incapacitate them. But what is the penalty? $3,300 if the driver, who would be almost incapable of standing up, let alone driving safely, would face, with possibly a jail term that is seldom imposed. So one has to wonder why a government that claims to be responsible and caring about the safety of motorists allows this situation to occur.

The truth is that it's all about revenue. If the government banned alcohol consumption for drivers - zero-alcohol - along with massive penalties, lifetime bans for drink-driving and jail for drink-drivers, the revenue loss from alcohol sales would be enormous. This is why the government will not take measures to prevent motorists driving with alcohol in their blood.

CARR CALLS FOR 0.02 ALCOHOL LIMIT

Driving is far more dangerous than flying, so at least the same restrictions on blood-alcohol levels should apply to motorists as they do to pilots. Logically, this would prevent a lot of accidents and fatalities caused by motorists who were drunk or even slightly impaired by alcohol. However, enforcement of a 0.02 alcohol limit has to be coupled with severe penalties to deter motorists from drinking booze and then driving.

I suggest the following penalties for motorists caught with more than 0.02 alcohol in their blood:

If people are too damn stupid to learn from the first offence that drink-driving is extremely dangerous, especially to other motorists, then they should be prevented from driving for the rest of their lives, because stupidity is incurable. People simply do not realise how dangerous driving can be, especially at high speed on undivided roads. The above penalties may seem very harsh, but people have to consider whether they would go flying with a drunk pilot or would they consider this to be a massive risk to their safety.

If virtually no motorists would agree to fly with a pilot who has any alcohol in his system, why would any of them support the legality of motorists driving with alcohol in their blood in a far more dangerous environment, such as undivided roads at a speed of 100 kph?

THE SAME GOES FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF NARCOTICS

It goes without saying that certain narcotics have much the same effect on motorists as alcohol, however it is a slightly different situation. Generally, driving under the influence of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other narcotics that do not impair driving ability should not be subject to sanction. I do not approve of any narcotics use - life is damn good enough without bending one's mind with drugs, but being logical about this, only narcotics that affect a driver's ability should be treated like alcohol.

So if we are to have safer roads, governments need to stop putting revenue in front of lives and do everything they can to stop people driving under the influence of alcohol and some drugs. Drink-driving is a major cause of road accidents and fatalities and something other than lip service and a regime that just imposes monetary penalties for drink-driving needs to be introduced. The law should be amended to make it so costly and unpleasant for anybody to drive with alcohol or certain drugs in their system, that this practice would die out completely.