I don’t want to seem like I’m self promoting so I will write this as if I was on the ABC.
Starting a business in the ‘late night intoxicated car owners transfer and logistics industry’ gives you an interesting insight into the way people view drink driving. When we first started this business (a service that drives people home in their own cars), we thought to ourselves “Perth has a need for this service. There are places taxis won’t go, or go quickly and there is a problem with drink driving.” We made our message about providing an alternative to drink driving.
We had an amazing response from people and business owners that we met. Some said we were offering an invaluable community service. Many said they would use us often as they “drink drive all the time”. We got very excited. We did not get a single call from these people.
As it turns out, Perth has an ingrained culture of drink driving. People are too willing to do it, and they are not getting caught. The chances of reprimand are limited to the main streets on a Saturday or public holiday when the RBT’s are en force. The police pick a month to target drink driving. Operation Octopus in December 2009 and January 2010 was a targeted campaign to reduce drink driving around back streets from liquor serving establishments. In the two months 6073 breath tests were taken resulting in 337 charges laid for drink driving, a strike rate of 5.5%. On any day, 2.5% of people breath-tested are found to be over the limit.
Think about that next time you’re on the road. For every 40 cars you see, one of them was over the limit, risking your life and theirs.
Last night, I had a customer tell me that they think “90-95% of your business will be people who have been caught drink driving before”. I had to correct her, I can recollect the small few instances. Two people who have lost their licence before have used our service. They speak of how they will never do it again as they placed a huge burden on others when they could not drive themselves.
I’ve had one customer explain to me that they consider themselves a “responsible drink driver” because when he drink drives, he doesn’t hoon or do anything stupid. He then went onto explain to me that he fell asleep at the wheel while drink driving on the Mitchel Freeway and only woke up as his car gently scraped across the wire fencing guarding the train line. When he woke he was heading into a tree and could just steer the car away in time. Despite this, he said only now that he had a child with him did he consider not drink driving, thus using our service.
On three occasions we have had bookings for late at night, between 11 and 1pm, where at the last minute we have received a text saying “sorry, drove off”. One of them drove off because we were five minutes late for his booking, which was only because he changed restaurants. He sent us another text 15 minutes later, a picture message of a booze bus with the caption “blew 0.07”. This was three weeks after the law changed so that blood alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08 incurred a minimum three-month suspension.
As much as we would love to be doing our small effort to reduce drink driving on our roads, it turns out the majority of what we do is offer responsible people a viable alternative to taxis. Responsible people in Perth are sick of late or non-existent taxis, engaged phone lines, poor driving and poor customer service.
Taxi charges are set by the state Government, so there is no way for taxis to change their business structure. They cannot charge more, or charge in advance to secure a booking. They get no benefit from waiting for you, or driving you in a safe and sensible manner. They get no benefit from picking people up from the outer suburbs when they can wait in the queue in Northbridge or the Airport. For these reasons, taxis fail responsible people and leave little alternative to the drink driving prone.
Not that this is an excuse.
My opinion: A long-term education and awareness campaign needs to occur in conjunction with changes to taxi regulations and improvements in late night public transport in order to change the culture of drink driving in Perth. What is yours?
This blog was posted at emergen.com.au on 07/04/2011. Comments are visible there.