The Australian Way…

Well today I read that the UK is following Australia’s lead…

“Random breath testing in Australia was first introduced in Victoria in 1976 and within 15 years had halved the amount of people who died in car accidents as a result of drink driving. Although slow to follow our lead, British parliament announced two weeks ago that they planned to implement random breath testing in the UK which will come into affect later this year.” Australian Times (www.australiantimes.com)

…only 33 years later!

I have no idea why this has taken so long to come to the fore in the UK given Australia is still part of the Commonwealth (my ‘Australia should be a Republic…no offense to the Queen and all of that’ I shall save for another day). However, this article does make me realise that I was much more aware of the road toll statistics in Australia than I am here.

Some of the other things I remember include:

– State by state road tolls being televised and published during all major holiday periods as well as on an annual basis (check out http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/jsp/statistics/roadtollcurrent.do?areaID=23&tierID=1&navID=2). There was a slightly competitive feeling between the states to get the lowest road toll and in the case of the annual road toll increasing either state or nationally, this ‘bad news’ was discussed at length around office water coolers, at weekend bbqs and after work shindigs.

– Drink-driving had a stigma of shame and irresponsibility when I was a teenager. This was led largely by TAC (Transport Accident Commission) television campaigns featuring the slogan, “if you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot.” I remember my younger sister and I being horrified to learn that our parents had driven home after a cocktail party and in another incident, I remember a stand-up row with a boyfriend about me refusing to get in the car and begging him not to drive – both occurred when we were in our teens in the 80s.

– Losing your license in Australia is a bit of a disaster both socially and professionally. Public transport is not very ‘joined up’ and Australians generally travel a fair distance to work so getting anywhere without driving is a major logistics exercise – unlike the UK. (Yes, you Brits may complain about it but it so-o-o-o works!)

I don’t know what the answer is but could building awareness of driving fatalities from an early stage be a start? Does the problem lie in that we perceive our ownership of the action as distinctly separate from the outcomes it produces (which is viewed as someone else’s problem)?

Rant over…phew!
(Unless of course someone leaves comments on my blog about this which results in a ‘set-to’ of soap box sounding off…oh yeah.)

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