Yeah, the bad, gory old days of "having one for the road" and the Six o' clock swill. Do some research on the pioneering work of Dr John Birrell, here's a start: Blood on Bitumen (Part Three) http://150.theage.com.au/view_bestofarticle.asp?straction=update&inttype=1&intid=428 Author: Graham Perkin. Source: The Age. Date: 21 Jun 1959 FOR AND AGAINST COMPULSORY TESTS FOR DRUNKENNESS One car smashes into another; a driver with bloodshot eyes, thick speech and a severe attack of the “after-six staggers” climbs from the wreckage. Is he too intoxicated to drive? The Victorian community does not know. For quite legitimate but controversial reasons it does not accept the only available standards by which the driver’s condition can be judged. In the opinion of police, the British Medical Association and, guardedly, lawyers and the courts, blood-alcohol tests are the best means of judging whether or not a man has been drinking. Blood tests do not necessarily prove that a man is drunk; only that he has been drinking. But it is the drinking man with a motor car who dominates the accident statistics. Until some form of definite physical test of his condition is established as the law, this drinking man is almost beyond the law. On the face of it, great injustices are being done by the existing law. The conviction rate for drunken driving before magistrates is 75 per cent. Before juries the conviction rate is 10 per cent. The inference is that those with sufficient money to brief the best counsel and to arrange the most complete defence have a 90 per cent chance of of acquittal? Blood-alcohol tests are at present made only by consent. A refusal cannot be admitted as evidence since the 1958 amendments to the law. More than 70 per cent of suspect drunken drivers refuse blood tests. This would appear to be an indication that the police are prepared to take “no” for an answer. * I have watched the interrogation of a number of suspected drunken drivers. Their right to refuse a blood test was, in all cases, put to them clearly and fairly, and there was no attempt to change their minds. Some of the men were beyond logic or reason, and could have been persuaded to put their names on a consent form without undue argument. The 70 per cent who refuse the test obviously are enjoying a considerable extension of their rights as citizens compared with the 30 per cent who consent. The 1958 B.M.A. special committee considered these anomalies and recommended that the issue of a driver’s licence should depend on the driver’s consent to take blood-alcohol tests, breath tests or any other approved tests of alcohol level in the blood. Refusal to consent would automatically cancel the driving licence for a statutory period. The B.M.A. also recommended that any car driver with a blood-alcohol level of 1 per cent or more should be guilty of an offence. Six and a half glasses of beer, or six and a half ounces of whisky, drunk in five minutes, would give the average drinker a blood-alcohol level of 1 per cent. Of course, the average drinker would drink more slowly than this. He would also regularly eliminate and perhaps take food as he drank. A maximum of nine glasses of beer between 5 p.m. and 6.15 p.m. would probably allow a drinker to keep his blood-alcohol level inside the permissible limit. An honest drinker who is also an honest driver could hardly complain that this limit interfered with his drinking. The B.M.A. recommendation, in effect, means compulsory blood tests. It also means that blood-alcohol above a mandatory level is an indication that you are incapable of driving whether you hold your liquor or not. * Professor R. D. Wright, professor of physiology at the University of Melbourne, objects on both these scores. He has strong support from the Associated Brewers and less vocal support from the legal and other professions. The crux of professor Wright’s objections is that compulsory blood tests are an invasion of privacy and therefore an attack on personal freedom. “Should we compel a man to provide the evidence to convict himself?” he asks. “To accept this proposition is to deny the basis of British justice.” But similar compulsions have been accepted in the public interest for many years. If, for example, we travel abroad there are a series of compulsory vaccinations and inoculations. Professor Wright acknowledges that a community must accept some limitations on its freedom up to a point. Blood tests, he thinks go past this point. Professor Wright holds no brief for the drunken driver. “I keep off the roads between 6.15 and 7 p.m., because there are drunks in cars everywhere looking for accidents.” He says. The Victorian Police surgeon (Dr. John Birrell), the foremost advocate of compulsory blood tests, agrees that compulsion would be a breach of liberty. “But,” he says, “this particular liberty involves the freedom to drink as much as you like, to judge your own condition when you are in no condition to judge, to drive your car and to kill or maim with little prospect of penalty.” * Mr. E. L. Burke of the Associated Brewers, says a compulsory blood test is the physical equivalent of confession under duress. “There may be occasions when this is justifies but, if so, such an overwhelming case must be made out to support it that all doubts about justification are removed.” Mr. Burke says. The supporters of compulsory blood tests agree with Mr. Burke. They believe 700-odd road deaths a year in Victoria represent an “overwhelming case.” And what of Professor Wright? On his own admission, drunken drivers limit his freedom to drive on the public highway between 6.15 and 7 p.m. All of us, including Professor Wright, have a human right to drive or walk or ride on the roads at any time with reasonable safety. That right is seriously infringed in existing circumstances. Compulsory blood tests are law in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and in some parts of the United States. The mandatory upper limit of alcohol concentration varies between .05 in Norway and .15 in the United States. The Victorian B.M.A.’s recommendation is .1 per cent. According to some doctors an upper limit of .1 per cent would provide only 20 per cent certainty that the person was drunk. It would however, establish that a man had drunk a considerable quanitity. This of course, would be the aim of the blood test. The drunken driver is covered by the law as it stands. The man who has been drinking in fair quantities is not. * If we believe that a man drives at 100 per cent efficiency at all stages of intoxication up to complete drunkenness, then there is no need for a blood test, compulsory or otherwise. What are the alternatives? Professor Wright, suggests that police should take film and tape recordings of a suspect driver’s appearance, behavior and speech, to be submitted as direct evidence. Although police and State Government authorities believe the suggestion is impractical—the traffic squad would have to be equipped with cameras, and courtrooms would require projection equipment—it is worth a trial on a limited scale. Breath analysis is also a possibility. Dr. Norman McCallum, of the University forensic laboratory on this test at present. None of the tests can be completely equated with public opinion. The public has to decide whether the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly bloodbath on the roads is important enough to overcome its objections. The decision might be accelerated if professor Wright, Mr. Burke and the Acting Premier (Mr. Rylah) arranged to spend a Saturday night on the roads with Dr. Birrell.