Random Breath Testing in Australia: Is there an Optimum Level of Intensity?

Ferris, Jason, Mazerolle, Lorraine, Bennett, Sarah, Devaney, Madonna, King, Mark, & Bates, Lyndel J. (2013) Random Breath Testing in Australia: Is there an Optimum Level of Intensity? In 20th International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety Conference, Conference Proceedings, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, QLD.


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Background: Random Breath Testing (RBT) is the main drink driving law enforcement tool used throughout Australia. International comparative research considers Australia to have the most successful RBT program compared to other countries in terms of crash reductions (Erke, Goldenbeld, & Vaa, 2009). This success is attributed to the programs high intensity (Erke et al., 2009). Our review of the extant literature suggests that there is no research evidence that indicates an optimal level of alcohol breath testing. That is, we suggest that no research exists to guide policy regarding whether or not there is a point at which alcohol related crashes reach a point of diminishing returns as a result of either saturated or targeted RBT testing.

Aims: In this paper we first provide an examination of RBTs and alcohol related crashes across Australian jurisdictions. We then address the question of whether or not an optimal level of random breath testing exists by examining the relationship between the number of RBTs conducted and the occurrence of alcohol-related crashes over time, across all Australian states.

Method: To examine the association between RBT rates and alcohol related crashes and to assess whether an optimal ratio of RBT tests per licenced drivers can be determined we draw on three administrative data sources form each jurisdiction. Where possible data collected spans January 1st 2000 to September 30th 2012. The RBT administrative dataset includes the number of Random Breath Tests (RBTs) conducted per month. The traffic crash administrative dataset contains aggregated monthly count of the number of traffic crashes where an individual’s recorded BAC reaches or exceeds 0.05g/ml of alcohol in blood. The licenced driver data were the monthly number of registered licenced drivers spanning January 2000 to December 2011.

Results: The data highlights that the Australian story does not reflective of all States and territories. The stable RBT to licenced driver ratio in Queensland (of 1:1) suggests a stable rate of alcohol related crash data of 5.5 per 100,000 licenced drivers. Yet, in South Australia were a relative stable rate of RBT to licenced driver ratio of 1:2 is maintained the rate of alcohol related traffic crashes is substantially less at 3.7 per 100,000. We use joinpoint regression techniques and varying regression models to fit the data and compare the different patterns between jurisdictions.

Discussion: The results of this study provide an updated review and evaluation of RBTs conducted in Australia and examines the association between RBTs and alcohol related traffic crashes. We also present an evidence base to guide policy decisions for RBT operations.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 62343
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified (111799)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > CRIMINOLOGY (160200) > Police Administration Procedures and Practice (160205)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 08 Sep 2013 22:47
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 01:52

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