It’s rare for a judge to speak out and share their personal opinions in court, especially on something as controversial as drink driving.
But a magistrate in a Bundaberg court has raised eyebrows after reportedly questioning whether the blood alcohol limit for driving should be increased in Australia.
According to the Courier Mail, Magistrate Neil Lavaring speculated that the current limit of 0.05 is too low after hearing defendant Michael Richard Donne recorded a reading of 0.062 at a roadside breath test – just 0.012 over the limit.
“He’s not far over the limit,” Mr Lavaring said, according to the news outlet.
“Sometimes I wonder if the limit’s a bit low. I shouldn’t say that, but I don’t know why we changed from the old 0.08 because no one at that end is really grossly affected, are they? What I’m trying to say is the people who are 0.10 and above, they’re the concerning ones.”
Donne, 50, was charged with driving over the general alcohol limit in Agnes Water in July. He was reportedly fined $100 and received the minimum one-month disqualification of his driver licence.
Australian Road Safety Foundation CEO Russell White told Starts at 60 he was “very surprised” by the magistrate’s comments, and he personally would prefer the limit to be lowered to zero.
“We have made so many in-roads in making drink driving socially unacceptable now, so why undo that? I think the polar opposite is needed… It should be lowered to zero.”
White explained that everyone is different, and the real issues arise when people try to guess their own limits and get it wrong. He added: “Everyone processes alcohol differently, some people will be over the limit after just one drink. If the limit were lowered to zero, there would be no ambiguity over that.”
According to DrinkWise, a person found to have a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 (the limit) is twice as likely to have a crash than before drinking. Meanwhile, anyone with a 0.08 reading would be five times more likely.
In the time between the two levels, the website states a driver will be less able to judge distances, have impaired sensitivity to red lights, slower reactions and a shorter concentration span.
While learners and probationary licence-holders are banned from driving with any alcohol in their system, all other licence holders have a limit of 0.05 BAC.
Blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is measured by the concentration of alcohol in your breath or blood. A BAC of 0.05 means your body contains 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.