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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Enforcing laws to prevent fatalities on the road

Australia is known for some of the most beautiful beaches and landscapes in the world, for the generally laidback outlook on life, and (as much as we hate it) throwing ‘shrimp’ on the barbie. But unfortunately, Australia is also prone to fatalities on the road. In 1970, 3,798 people lost their lives in automotive accidents on Australian roads, and the strict laws enforced not long after led to a fall over the next few years in motor vehicle deaths. Ten years ago, Australia would have been considered one of the safest countries in the world in terms of road and traffic safety. But an increase in fatalities on the road in recent years has turned this around. In fact, the number of deaths on Australian roads rose for the second year, reaching nearly 1,300 fatalities in 2016. The successive rise in the annual number of fatalities on Australian roads has come as a shock. There are specific and strict laws in place surrounding drink driving for a very good reason: driving under the influence impacts your ability to respond to the world around you in due time. A shocking 30% of fatalities on Australian roads are due to drink driving.

In New South Wales, drivers in Sydney’s east and west areas received the most speeding fines in 2015. The NSW government raised $223 million from speeding fines, and most of the fines were the result of fixed speed cameras and not roadside bookings. With just under a third of automotive fatalities being the result of drink driving in Australia, studies show that youth are especially vulnerable, with car accidents being the main cause of death among people aged 15-29, and drink driving being one of the main causes of road crashes in the demographic. With such scary statistics, it is little wonder that the law has had to up the ante when it comes to drink driving offences and consequences.

Currently, in NSW all drink driving offences require the defendant to attend Local Court. While automatic disqualification periods are enforced for drink driving offences in the state, the defendant can make submissions to the Court if they feel their offence and circumstances at the time of the incident warrant leniency on the part of the Court Magistrate. NSW has five categories for drink driving offences; the novice range (0.00 to 0.019), the special range (0.02 to 0.049), low range (0.05 to 0.079), mid-range (0.08 to 0.149), and high range (0.15 and higher). For each range, there is a different penalty and suspension period, and individuals convicted of other offences in recent years face the possibility of their penalty being increased for the recent drink driving charge.

Drink driving laws are enforced practically everywhere for a very good reason; the effects that alcohol has on the brain’s decision-making processes can lead to delay or confusion, potentially causing injury or death not only to the driver under the influence but those around them. Hiring a drink driving lawyer is absolutely necessary should they find themselves in dire need of legal representation following a motor vehicle accident that is possibly fueled by alcohol. The subsequent consequences for drink driving offences can be tricky to navigate, so having a professional by your side to help you through the process is invaluable.

And it isn’t just on the road that alcohol seems to be enticing individuals to make bad judgement calls. Alcohol-infused assaults have been proven to rise outside the Sydney lockout laws zones, but the figures have not exceeded the level that is deemed an outward concern. Regardless of if an individual is drinking at the pub on a Friday night or choosing to drive home from a club on a Saturday night, the law does not change. Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after having a big night out renders you incapable of making a coherent, informed decision and thereby any charges laid against you should you be caught are entirely your own fault – the law does not bend based on your inability to know your limits when it comes to consuming alcohol.

Drink driving is one of the most serious and potentially fatal mistakes that a person can make. While drinking can often lead to a sense of confidence, it is important to understand one’s limits when consuming alcohol. While the legal limit in Australia is 0.05, the general rule of thumb is simply to not drink if you want to drive home – the reality is that while we think that we might be fine to drive, we could be far over the legal limit and thus pose a risk to not only ourselves, but those around us, when we get behind the wheel. People make alcohol-fueled decisions based on inflated confidence, and when these decisions are made they can have fatal consequences. Not only is drink driving a foolish action, it is also a selfish action. The drink driving laws are in place for a reason, and individuals that choose not to take them seriously are selfish and risk lives every time they make the choice to get behind the wheel.

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