Underage Drinking & Drink Driving – Society’s problem or a parental responsibility?
While current media attention has been drawn towards alcohol fuelled violence on our cities streets, some may argue that the real hidden issue is that of underage drinking and the criminal behaviour of drink driving. Statistics show that young people who begin their association with alcohol by underage drinking are more likely to get into trouble for drink driving than those who do not get a taste for alcohol until they are older. Recent talkback radio discussion on the issue of underage drinking showed that the community is split between whether or not it is OK to allow children to commence underage drinking while being supervised at home.
Some argue that there is nothing wrong with supervising 15 or 16 year olds at home while they partake in one or two glasses of liquor, while others believe supervised underage drinking is tantamount to child abuse.
However, legally, there is no criminal element in supervising underage drinking. In NSW, the Liquor Act 2007 No. 90 section 117 (4) states that a person is not supply to supply liquor for underage drinking in any premises unless that person is a parent or guardian. So, put simply, underage drinking is legal as long as the liquor is supplied by mum or dad. But then what about drink driving?
Drink driving is a crime in all Australian states and territories.
In Victoria, drink driving accounts for 25% of all road deaths, with 42 drivers or motorcyclists with a BAC of 0.050 g/100ml or higher killed in 2009. Of those 42 killed, 48% were younger than 29 years old. Whether or not these drink drivers were also underage drinkers once is impossible to tell, however it is understandable why the Victoria Police conducted 1.4 million breath tests and caught over 4000 people drink driving in 2009. If 4000 people were caught drink driving, then the numbers of those who do not get caught must be significant. Significant enough for state police forces and roads authorities to spend considerable tax payer funds in trying to stamp out the drink driving culture that unfortunately is still around in Australia.
The huge spending by police and government would seemingly demonstrate that drink driving is definitely considered society’s problem, while spending on anti underage drinking campaigns is significantly less and tends to lean towards a health or harm minimisation approach rather than policing it as criminal behaviour. Some may argue that perhaps parents should take a more leading approach when educating their children about the perils of underage drinking and drink driving, however first they must set a good example before this can occur.
The aforementioned stats on drink driving show that maybe Australia’s parents are not setting a good enough standard of behaviour for our most precious assets to follow.
What does prescribed concentration of alcohol or PCA mean?
Most people associate drink driving with the phrase, “driving under the influence” or DUI. In fact this is not technically correct. For most Australian state laws, the term DUI relates to that of driving under the influence of illicit drugs, not alcohol.
In Australia, it is not an offence to consume alcohol and drive a motor vehicle. However it is an offence if a driver’s blood alcohol is at a concentration that is prescribed by statute to be an offence. In NSW, there are numerous prescribed concrentration of alcohol that amount to an offence and each have different penalties associated.
The NSW Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999, Section 8A specifies the different prescribed concentration of alcohol:
Novice Range PCA stipulates an offence is committed if the novice driver has a BAC between 0.000 and 0.019 g/100ml
Special Range PCA stipulates an offence is committed if the specified driver has a BAC between 0.020 and 0.050 g/100ml.
Low Range PCA stipulates an offence is committed if the driver has a BAC between 0.050 and 0.079 g/100ml.
Mid Range PCA stipulates an offence is committed if the driver has a BAC between 0.080 and 0.149 g/100ml.
High Range PCA stipulates an offence is committed if the driver has a BAC at or above 0.150 g/100ml.
Please check with your relevant state police, legislation or road authority as prescribed concentration of aclohol (pca) offences and penalties may vary from state to state.