Alcohol still the worst drug on our roads

The government needs to treat alcohol as the most dangerous recreational drug, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says legal drugs, such as alcohol, are killing far more people than illegal drugs.[1]

Alcohol is the second biggest contributing factor to road crashes in New Zealand. Even more disturbing is that many drivers in alcohol-related deaths were actually under the legal limit. Clearly, it’s time to start treating alcohol as a dangerous addictive drug, because that’s what it is.”

“Roadside testing for recreational drugs is a waste of time at present, because many drugs are simply undetectable with current technology. However, there’s an obvious need to increase roadside testing for alcohol and to make alcohol harder to get.”

“Currently, the low price of alcohol at bottle stores encourages people to avoid licensed premises.  Clearly, the price of alcohol at bottle stores needs to rise until it’s cheaper to buy booze at a pub. In a pub, there can be some control of the amount people drink and it’s much easier for the police to target drivers.”

Matthew-Wilson says the government has a complete double standard where alcohol is concerned.  

“We live in a strange time in history where P dealers get jailed for life, legal highs are banned, but liquor stores are overflowing with alcoholic drinks, many of them aimed squarely at young adults. If the government was serious about saving lives, it would urgently restrict the sale and promotion of alcohol, especially to vulnerable groups like teenagers.”

However, Matthew-Wilson cautions that even when roadside drug testing becomes feasible, it is unlikely to deter the hard core of dangerous road users.

“The same people who drive when drugged or drunk are the same people who speed and don’t wear seatbelts. They tend to live in poor areas where substance abuse is normal and where seatbelts are considered a nuisance. They tend to be poorly educated and see life as something that happens to them, rather than something they can control. And they regularly crash and often take a lot of innocent people with them. Even then, these drivers rarely take responsibility for their actions.”

“Clearly, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make roads safe than to make all drivers safe. That’s why we need median barriers and roadside fencing on all our major highways.”

Matthew-Wilson adds:

“As I grow hoarse pointing out, in the 1980s, the Auckland harbour bridge used to suffer one serious road accident every week. After a concrete barrier was installed down the middle, most of the serious accidents stopped immediately. There wasn’t one less idiot or drunk driver, yet the accidents stopped, simply because the road was changed in a way that prevented mistakes from becoming fatalities.”

[1] Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. Alcohol is the most harmful drug in Britain, scoring 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54). It is the most harmful to others by a wide margin, and is ranked fourth behind heroin, crack, and methamphetamine (crystal meth) for harm to the individual.