27 Oct 2010

Compulsory rehab for repeat drink-drivers urged

4:09 pm on 27 October 2010

MPs have been told that repeat drink-drivers should have mandatory alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

A select committee is hearing submissions on legislation that would introduce a zero blood alcohol limit for repeat drink-drivers and for drivers under the age of 20.

A professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine, Doug Sellman, says most repeat drink-drivers have an alcohol problem and the current approach to dealing with them is harsh and vindictive and what they actually need is assessment and treatment.

Dr Sellman says there should be more linkage between the health system and justice system to address the problem of alcohol dependence.

Meanwhile, the Drug Foundation says there is already enough evidence to justify lowering the adult blood alcohol limit for drivers.

The legislation does not include not include any reduction in the adult blood alcohol limit. Instead, research is being carried out over the next two years to identify the risk posed by drivers with a blood alcohol limit between .05 and .08 grams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says it is frustrating that a decision to lower the adult limit keeps being delayed.

"At .08 adults are 16 times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as if they were sober. At .05 that is reduced to six times."

He says enough research has already be done, and it shows reducing the adult limit is one of the best things to do.