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NSW has top program for random breath testing

Article PhotoNSW has the most effective random breath testing program in Australia.

In a study funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), researchers at the University of Queensland examined the relationship between random breath testing and alcohol-related traffic crashes across Australia. With the lowest percentage of correlation, NSW ranks first on the scorecard.

General Manager of the Centre for Road Safety Marg Prendergast said these outstanding results are an outcome of the long standing partnership of the centre with NSW Police.

"Working with Police and coupling education and enforcement, we've been highly successful in reducing alcohol-related trauma on NSW roads," she said.

How did the study work?

The exhaustive study drew on varied data spread across 12 years.

Using random breath testing figures, licenced driver statistics and the number of alocohol-related car crashes between January 2000 and December 2012, the research created an "evidence base" for each state to measure its own program.

What were the results?

While NSW statistics indicated a stellar performance with alcohol-related crashes showing a consistent decline since 2007, Western Australia ranked the lowest.

According to the government of Western Australia, more than 15,000 people were found guilty of drink driving from 2011-12. In the same year, 19 per cent of fatal crashes involved alcohol as a factor. However, by 2013 the figure rose to 22 per cent.

Queensland has the second best random breath testing program in the country, and the drink driving accidents remained stable throughout the study period.

On a positive note, with the exception of Queensland, all states have seen a decrease in alcohol related crashes.

What is working for NSW?

According to FARE, in 1980 alcohol contributed to 30 per cent of total fatal crashes. By 2013 this figure was reduced by almost half to 16 per cent.

Ms Prendergast says there are a number of factors that have contributed to NSW's excellent results.

"The Plan B advertising campaign, police random breath testing and strong penalties including licence disqualification, fines and now mandatory alcohol interlocks for high range and repeat offenders, the community now understands, and no longer accepts, the risk that drink driving poses," she said.

She also credits the police for using a strong and proactive approach. With around 5 million random breath tests conducted every year, travelling on roads is becoming safer. Lessons learned along the way could not only prove valuable to other states, but also to NSW in dealing with the next big issues

Commander of the NSW Police Force Traffic and Highway Patrol Command Assistant Commissioner John Hartley said that random breath testing, which was introduced 32 years ago, is a major factor in controlling drink driving.

"Since January 1 2014, more than 6.9 million random breath tests have been conducted, and more than 23,300 drivers have been charged with drink driving, a ratio of 1:285," he said.

In a statement released by NSW Transport, the total number of road fatalities in 2014 was 309, which is the lowest this figure has been in 90 years.

Assistant Commissioner Hartley says it is no small feat, considering a rise in population, drivers, and vehicles.

"This is an outstanding achievement, and further emphasises the significant ground we've made in reducing alcohol related fatalities, through random breath testing, on our roads," he added

As well as driving responsibly, drivers on NSW roads must always make sure their licence, CTP green slip and registration are current, as they will most likely be checked at the time of a random breath test.