Commercial and private pilots are not permitted to drink alcohol 8 hours or less before flying. Virtually everybody would agree that they would be very reluctant to be passengers in an aircraft whose pilot had been on the booze 10 minutes before flying, even if his Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was less than the legal motorist limit of 0.05.
Piloting aircraft is far safer and often easier than driving cars. I can very confidently assert this, as I was a licensed commercial charter pilot for decades. Furthermore, the minimum lateral separation between aircraft in controlled airspace is 5 nautical miles - a whopping 9km. The vertical separation minimum is 1000 metres - 1km. So there is virtually no danger of collision, apart from when aircraft are in the circuit pattern of a controlled airport and even then, the separation criteria are quite large and aircraft are under the supervision of the tower controllers. Even at uncontrolled airports, pilots are required to keep contact with others in the vicinity and state their positions in the area.
The following video clip is a prank, but have a look at the faces of the passengers, who were very happy to go for a helicopter joyflight until they saw the "pilot", decked out in a uniform drive up in his car, hitting a garbage bin, then taking a swig out of a bottle in a brown paper bag and staggering over to try to put on a parachute and helmet. He dropped the sunvisor over his eyes and pretended that he could not see anything and then stumbled into a barrier. Of course the passengers simply refused to even contemplate flying with this "pilot" and it was hilarious to see their faces when this comedian showed them the hidden camera and they realised that they were victims of a prank.
Nobody in their right mind would dream of flying with a pilot who was so obviously drunk, but you can go to a hotel car park literally any day of the week and see patrons and their friends stagger to their vehicles after a heavy drinking session and drive off with no hesitation. Drunken idiots like this cause utter carnage on the roads, not only killing or maiming themselves and their passengers, but killing innocent motorists in other vehicles or pedestrians walking along footpaths.
In that prank video clip, when that "pilot" takes a slug out of his bottle in the brown paper bag, the look of horror on the faces on those joyflight passengers is priceless. If you showed that video clip of the drunken "pilot" to people, they would all agree that they would never step into an aircraft that anybody like that was piloting. However, many of those same people don't think twice about getting into cars with their friends when they are drunk and go driving on the roads, creating an unacceptable menace to other motorists and pedestrians and themselves. This has to stop.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is an enormous factor in road accidents and fatalities. Here are the figures from NSW.
The hard statistics clearly show that in NSW, one out of every five fatal accidents involves a drink-driver. Then there are countless accidents involving drink-driving that do not involve fatalities, but are responsible for serious and permanent injuries, such as loss of limbs, loss of sight, paraplegia, quadriplegia, brain damage and other severe trauma. Most of those injuries would have been completely avoided if drivers did not have their faculties impaired by alcohol. These horrifying statistics are much the same in other states.
Single vehicle accidents simply should not happen unless the cars had catastrophic tyre blowouts or suffered steering failure at high speed, which is highly unlikely. Apart from possibly swerving to avoid hitting an animal on the road or a medical episode such as fainting behind the wheel, there is no legitimate explanation for these accidents. Alcohol or narcotics may have played a part in these single vehicle crashes, as it is known that alcohol is a factor in at least 20% of car accidents.
Speed itself is not dangerous, but driving beyond the capability of the road and being affected by booze or drugs are major factors in such accidents. Nobody can legislate against stupidity and as long as people drive in a stupid manner and under the influence of intoxicating substances, then this carnage will continue.
In controlled airspace, lateral separation between aircraft is a minimum 5 nautical miles, which is just over 9km. The maximum speed for aircraft 5000 feet and below is 250 knots (460kph). So if we compare the ratio of an aircraft's maximum speed to its minimum separation from other aircraft and applied it to cars travelling at 100 kph, the separation between them should be a minimum of 2 metres when travelling in opposite directions.
But unlike the large separation criteria in aviation, a motorist can legally drive a car at 100 kph on an undivided road, with nothing except the width of the painted line separating him from oncoming cars that are also going at 100 kph in the opposite direction. That driver can legally have a blood-alcohol level of up to 0.05, which will take the edge off his ability to concentrate and impair him making instantaneous decisions affecting his safety and the safety of others on the road.
But what are the penalties for drivers with higher blood-alcohol levels? In NSW, the penalty for Low Range Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA) is $1,100. So a motorist with enough booze in him to really make him lose the plot on the road risks paying that fine - if he is caught, of course.
Many motorists are caught with High Range PCA, often well above 3.00, which is usually enough alcohol in the blood to kill or severely incapacitate them. But what is the penalty? It is a maximum $3,300 if the driver, who would be almost incapable of standing up, let alone driving safely, would face, with possibly a jail term that is seldom imposed. So one has to wonder why a government that claims to be responsible and caring about the safety of motorists allows this situation to occur.
The truth is that it's all about revenue. If the government banned alcohol consumption for drivers - zero-alcohol - along with massive penalties, lifetime bans for drink-driving and jail for drink-drivers, the revenue loss from alcohol sales would be enormous. This is why the government will not take measures to prevent motorists driving with alcohol in their blood.
Driving is far more dangerous than flying, so at least the same restrictions on blood-alcohol levels should apply to motorists as they do to pilots. Logically, this would prevent a lot of accidents and fatalities caused by motorists who were drunk or even slightly impaired by alcohol. However, enforcement of a 0.02 alcohol limit has to be coupled with severe penalties to deter motorists from drinking booze and then driving.
I suggest the following penalties for motorists caught with more than 0.02 alcohol in their blood:
If people are too damn stupid to learn from the first offence that drink-driving is extremely dangerous, especially to other motorists, then they should be prevented from driving for the rest of their lives, because stupidity is incurable. People simply do not realise how dangerous driving can be, especially at high speed on undivided roads. The above penalties may seem very harsh, but people have to consider whether they would go flying with a drunk pilot or would they consider this to be a massive risk to their safety.
If virtually nobody would agree to fly with a pilot who has any alcohol in his system, why would any of them support the legality of motorists driving with alcohol in their blood in a far more dangerous environment, such as undivided roads at a speed of 100 kph?
It goes without saying that certain narcotics have much the same effect on motorists as alcohol, however it is a slightly different situation. Generally, driving under the influence of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other narcotics that do not impair driving ability should not be subject to sanction. I do not approve of any narcotics use - life is damn good enough without bending one's mind with drugs, but being logical about this, only narcotics that affect a driver's ability should be treated like alcohol.
So if we are to have safer roads, governments need to stop putting revenue in front of lives and do everything they can to stop people driving under the influence of alcohol and some drugs. Drink-driving is a major cause of road accidents and fatalities and something other than lip service and a regime that just imposes monetary penalties for drink-driving needs to be introduced. The law should be amended to make it so costly and unpleasant for anybody to drive with alcohol or certain drugs in their system, that this practice would die out completely.
What gets me is this crazy attraction for alcohol and drugs. Why do people seem to have this mania for getting drunk or stupefied? Is life so bad that they have to bomb their brains out all the time with booze, drugs or anything else? We live in Australia, the best nation on Earth and life is so damn good, so I just have a hard time understanding why people find the need to bomb themselves out with alcohol and narcotics - and pay the huge prices that these things cost.
Of course the government knows this and it is why it imposes what we call Sin Taxes - enormous taxes and excise on tobacco, alcohol and gambling. And it's not the wealthy folk that are addicted to booze, smoking and gambling. It's mostly the working class demographic who smoke, drink copious amounts of beer and gamble. They are the majority of contributors to the Sin Taxes that keep them poor.
In 2021, a schooner of beer at a pub costs around $7.00 or so. One cigarette costs about $1.75. So somebody who drinks three schooners of beer and smokes 30 cigarettes a day is up for over $70 per day. Assuming that this person does this most days, let's say 300 out of 365 days in the year, these habits will cost him over $21,000 in a year. Let's say that this guy clears $1,000 per week in wages. That $21,000 that he blows on booze and smoking is a whopping 42% of his salary - nearly half on utter crap. And heaven knows what this fool would spend on some marijuana or other narcotic.
This scenario is very common, where people who smoke and drink booze wind up with no money after they pay the rent and buy food and petrol. I have heard many of them complaining that they are "Bleeding Aussie Battlers" who are being hard done by, at the same time while they holding a cigarette in one hand and a schooner of beer in the other. And I haven't even mentioned them having a punt on the horses or flushing what's left of their money down the toilet on Keno or the pokies. But they keep the nation solvent by paying those Sin Taxes so I suppose that we non-drinkers, non-smokers and non-gamblers have to be grateful to them.