Why licence suspensions, not graphic ads, are the best way to put brakes on drink-driving: opinion

IT’S an intake so staggering, you have to read it twice – 48 cans of Wild Turkey bourbon, rum, beer and “goon”.

That’s what Wyalong man Mitchell Tony Smith, 21, consumed during an epic bender on New Year’s Eve.

The health implications alone of drinking such a colossal amount of alcohol are dire.

The prospect of someone driving after downing so much booze is terrifying.

By deciding to climb behind the wheel, Smith went from endangering just his own health by drinking so much to the health of everyone else on the road by driving.

So plastered was he that when police pulled him over in Turvey Park, they had to assist him in getting out of the car.

He blew 0.287 roadside, almost six times the drink-driving blood alcohol limit.

Even for a community inured to tragedy and turmoil on the roads, this was a five star act of stupidity.

Each week in our region, dozens of drivers blow over the limit and are hauled into the police station, while hundreds more run the drink-driving gauntlet and get away with it.

Society has long grappled with the issue of how we deter drivers from endangering themselves and others on the road. 

A combination of graphic ad campaigns, police enforcement and media coverage humanising the impact of accidents has helped reduce the road toll. But still innocent lives are being snatched away by the deadly cocktail of alcohol and driving. 

Despite the anti-drink-driving message being writ large on billboards, TV screens and in newspapers, there still appears to be a nagging perception that drink-driving isn’t a “real” crime. This must change.

The Riverina, as with the rest of the country, must shake the perverse notion that drink-driving – as long as nobody gets hurt – is socially acceptable. 

Enforcement must continue to be a central plank of changing that perception, especially among young men like Smith.

Some blokes may brush off ad campaigns and glaze over news stories, but if they value one thing, it’s their right to drive. 

If they show they’re not responsible enough to hold a licence for a vehicle – a deadly weapon in the wrong hands – that right should be taken away for a decent stretch.

If they, or any other drink-driver for that matter, are unable to see the stupidity of driving with a belly full of booze, then perhaps a year walking to work might open their eyes.

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