NSW tries new approach to combat drink driving

Date: Aug 13, 2013

After a few delays, the New South Wales government said the new "sober-up centre" will be up and running by the end of the month.

Ideally, the centre will keep bar goers and other revellers off the roads if they've had too much to drink, lowering the number of alcohol-induced car accident injuries and deaths.

The plan calls for a two-pronged approach, with one centre in Sydney operating on a compulsory basis, while the others, which will go live by the end of August in Wollongong and Coogee, will be completely voluntary.

The Wollongong centre will be run by the Watershed drug and alcohol centre, and will take in up to 12 people who are apprehended by police on Friday and Saturday nights.

Watershed Chief Executive  Will Temple asserted that the centres will be a far cry from the mandatory police lockups that currently exist for anyone who is overly intoxicated in public. Here, with recovery professionals tasked with handling anyone brought in, people will be given the treatment they need to cease drink driving.

"This is a completely different kettle of fish because it's run by a drug and alcohol service and we are providing this for the community – it's a community service," Mr Temple said.

"People who are causing trouble and who are violent and carrying on will still be locked up by police. They won't be brought to the centre … because our focus is to be a safe alternative to the lock-up for people who are out, drunk and at risk for any number of reasons."

A better option

Although the decision to go to the sober-up centres in Wollongong and Coogee is completely voluntary, the centre in Sydney will be mandatory. The NSW government plans to assess the results of both programs to determine which is more effective.

In Sydney, if the drunk person in question refuses to go to the new centre, they'll be sent to the existing holding cells in the city's Central Local Court. Here, they'll have to pay $200 if it's the first time, and each sequential stay will rise by $200.

The Australian government is seeing success in lowering drink driving rates and related accidents. Between 1987 and 2011, the number of drivers killed in drink driving accidents has fallen from 38 per cent of the total to 16 per cent.

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