Tweed residents at the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program have been urged not to drink and drive.
Tweed residents at the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program have been urged not to drink and drive. Scott Powick

Bad road decisions too often prove fatal

ONE decision. That can be the difference between getting home safely or ending your night out in jail - or worse, dead.

Week two of the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program session, the second of a six week course, looked largely at drink and drug-driving.

The first section of the night was hosted by Tweed solicitor and former police officer and prosecutor Russell Baxter.

Mr Baxter recalled a time when as a young adult, men boasted they could drink 10 schooners and still handle themselves.

While it's easy to laugh about those days - when 'responsible service of alcohol' meant cutting patrons off when they fell out of their chairs - Mr Baxter said the "I'll be right" attitude was still hurting many.

"They were wrong then… and they're wrong now," Mr Baxter said.

"If you're driving, don't drink. If you're drinking, don't drive."

Mr Baxter was concerned a heightened awareness of the perils of drink-driving had brought with it an ignorance about drug-driving. He said young people today seemed to think they were perfectly capable of driving under the influence of cannabis, cocaine, speed, or meth, or a toxic cocktail of these.

He was bemused that health-conscious young people who read the ingredients of every piece of food they consumed were quick to consume unknown substances. Reflecting both on his time as an officer and prosecutor, and now his years as a lawyer, Mr Baxter said those who'd killed someone in a crash were always left with a life destroyed.

This was a constant, regardless of the penalty, or lack thereof. While a family has lost a loved one, those who'd made the ultimately fatal decision, had also landed themselves a life sentence.

Mr Baxter also spoke about the impact motorists' decisions had on the emergency workers who attended accidents. He said it was "too easy" to make dumb, irreversible, decisions.

After acknowledging that alcohol was an inherent part of Australian culture, Mr Baxter urged participants to set themselves up for a safe night out. Driving to a mate's place for drinks - or to a venue in town - with the intention of deciding later on alternative transport home was on his list of don'ts.

"Who has ever made a good decision when they're drunk?" he asked the group.

The response was silence.

Mr Baxter said despite the Tweed being among the worst for drug and drink-driving offences in the state, only half of traffic offenders undertook this program. He'd like to see that change.

Good to know

  • Had a fight? Your stress levels can effect the way your body processes alcohol, and thus your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). 
  •  Women's menstrual cycles can also effect BAC.
  • A month-long study saw participants consume the same foods and alcoholic drinks at the same time each day. Their BAC changed each day.
  • Russell Baxter said smokers appeared to return a BAC reading 25% higher than non-smokers. He put this partly down to the appetite-inhibiting nature of cigarettes. Mr Baxter said there was no reliable way to control your blood alcohol reading, except avoiding alcohol completely.
  Tough fines   
  • Drink-driving could land you with a fine of $1100 for low-range, $2200 (and jail) for mid-range and $3300 (and jail) for high range offences. Compare that to a bus ticket or taxi fare and it's a no-brainer.
  In trouble?   
  • Using a legal representative goes a long way. Unless you're a lawyer, representing yourself will mostly end in disaster.
  • Looking court-ready goes just as far. Leave the singlets and thongs for the beach if you're planning to impress the person who's about to make a decision about your future.
  Donate life   It's not something most people would like to consider, but sometimes - due to the bad decisions of others - people are forced to make organ donation decisions for their loved ones. If you haven't already, it's time to have this conversation. Farewelling a loved one is never easy. But if those close to you don't know your wishes, it's a whole lot tougher. For more info visit donatelife.org.au.  


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