RBTs bring a sobering end to senseless loss

NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas conducted the two-millionth random breath test on Sunday. Photo: Adam Hollingworth No let up: John Hartley, NSW Police Traffic Services Commander. Photo: Anna Kucera

In his honour: former police minister George Paciullo. Photo: Farah Abdurahman

The odds were that Nick Kaldas was not going to catch a drink-driver. The NSW Police Deputy Commissioner conducted the two-millionth random breath test on the final day of a four-month blitz called Operation Paciullo on Sunday.

The odds might also have been stacked against Mr Kaldas ever having met the two-millionth tested driver, whom he greeted at an RBT station at Town Hall in George Street.

However, random driver Basilo Grotto instantly recognised the Deputy Commissioner. ”I met you at a funeral,” he told Mr Kaldas. Happily for Mr Grotto, and for his son and daughter in the car with him, he passed the test.

More than 8000 people have been charged with drink-driving as a result of Operation Paciullo, which marked 30 years of RBT in NSW.

Do the sums. These 8000 drink-drivers constitute only 0.4 per cent of those tested. Is it really necessary to randomly test so many innocent drivers?

Absolutely, police say, and they support their moral calculus with a load of statistics. They estimate the latest 2 million tests have saved 166 lives. Eighty-five million tests have been done in NSW since RBT was introduced in December 1982, and 545,000 drivers have been charged with drink-driving. Police estimate 7000 lives have been saved in those 30 years.

In the year before RBT was introduced, about 1350 people died in road accidents and about half of these deaths were blamed on drink-driving. ”Last year, 50 people died because of drink-driving,” the commander of Traffic and Highway Patrol, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, said. The proportion of road deaths linked to drink-driving had fallen to one-eighth, Mr Kaldas said.

Random tests have dramatically shifted the culture against drink-driving. ”At the same time,” Mr Kaldas lamented, ”the message has really not got out to the thousands of people who still drink and drive and think they will get away with it.” So there will be no let-up.

Operation Paciullo was named in honour of former police minister and Staysafe committee chairman George Paciullo, who pioneered RBT in NSW. He died last year. His son, Murray, who was at Town Hall on Sunday, said his father would have been been very proud.

”I’m extremely proud of dad,” he said. ”He wasn’t around as much in those early days as I would have liked him to be, but I understood that what he was doing was really worthwhile, and I understood the sacrifice he was making.”

Mr Grotto was given a framed certificate to mark his small, random part in the history of RBT.

Operation Paciullo

2 million random breath tests in the four months to Sunday8000 charged with drink-driving166 estimated lives saved1982: About 1350 killed in NSW road accidents –  about half because of drink-driving2012:  About 50 killed by drink-driving

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