My mum was the youngest of a family of seven children all born during the pre World War II 20′s and 30′s living on the then outskirts of Sydney in the St George area.
These children and their subsequent husbands and wives became adults in the 50′s and 60′s, a very different world to today.
I remember as a child, uncles or friends of my parents regaling stories of how they use to play golf on Saturday morning, finish at lunchtime and then drink all afternoon and into the night only to stagger to their cars, slip guiltlessly into the drivers seat, and somehow manage to drive home.
They use to make jokes about it, “the old girl (the car) know’s the way home” or “I drive better when I’m drunk”. Often their wives would find them parked in the drive, car still running, lights on and asleep.
Friends and relatively would attend my parent’s house for dinner with their children when I was a child, share three or four bottles of wine, and then carry their kids out to the car, lie them on the backseat and swerve their way home.
In those days the ladies didnt drink very much and, even though the wife was often sober, she either didnt have a driver’s licence or it wasnt considered the manly thing for an Australian male to give up the control of his car to his wife. It would be far to emasculating to have the ‘missus’ drive him home.
Now these relatives and friends of my parents werent considered monsters, they weren’t even considered bad parents. They were hardworking, community and family minded and would do anything for a family member or friend. I have no doubt they loved their kids as much as any parents did. Its simply that is what the culture was at the time.
That all changed, or should I say more accurately started to change, in 1982 in NSW, when random breath testing was first introduced.
That older generation of driver’s screamed blue muder at the time. “This is an invasion of our rights”, “this isnt Russia” was the cry.
Since 1982 over 85 million drivers have been tested in NSW.
Prior to the introduction of RBT in NSW one in two car accident was alcohol related, that has now been reduced to one in eight.
Prior to RBT being introduced in NSW it is estimated that around 700 people in NSW died on the roads because of drink driving, today its estimated about 50 die each year.
I appear for drink drivers in the courts of NSW every week. They receive a fair hearing of their circumstances from a Magistrate or Judge, and they are most often, fined and have their licence suspended. They are at best inconvenienced, at worst lose their job, their income and sometimes even their liberty.
A lot lament the chain of events that lead to them driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, while others will complain about their bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What none of them will do is criticise the fact that we do have random breath testing in NSW.
They wont do so because they know random breath testing saves lives and saves catastrophic injuries, and one of those 600 odd people saved each year may just be someone they love.
Society has changed over that 30 years since the introduction of RBT. Society’s moral compass has changed, a change very much for the better.