Kerry Armstrong, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, Queensland University of Technology. Photo Rae Wilson / Newsdesk
Kerry Armstrong, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, Queensland University of Technology. Photo Rae Wilson / Newsdesk Rae Wilson

Poor rural public transport a reason for drink-driving

SOCIAL isolation and poor public transport infrastructure is resulting in police catching more drink-drivers in country Queensland.

This is the conclusion Dr Kerry Armstrong came to after analysing random breath test apprehension data across the state for the past 12 years.

Dr Armstrong, from the Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland, said only about 5% of all Queenslanders lived in Far North Queensland, from Cairns to Cape York, and in the Central region, including Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Emerald.

"But they're making up 10% of all drink-driving apprehensions, so they are overrepresented when you're looking based on population," she said.

Her team observed the lowest proportions in two Brisbane metropolitan regions.

Dr Armstrong said WA literature from 1995 showed only 30% of people in rural areas could separate drinking from driving.

She said this compared to 45% of people in urban areas - such as Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts - being able to separate the two.

"What we're seeing is that is there is poorer public transport infrastructure in those particular areas which does make it difficult to get home if they wanted to go out and have a couple of drinks," she said.

"Unless they've got designated drivers or they've got courtesy buses, which from my understanding is only in a certain radius, you can't physically get home if you've been drinking.

"People in the more urban areas are more likely to abstain from drinking and driving. They probably put that separation there because they do have alternative modes of transport or of getting home."

"It's well-known there is a higher propensity for alcohol consumption in more rural areas then there is in urban areas; per capita litre consumed is greater."

"That's why it's even more important to separate that drinking and driving."

Dr Armstrong, who grew up in Rockhampton, said other studies had shown people in rural areas believed the risks they experienced from isolation outweighed the drink-driving risks in their minds.

She said many had engaged in drink-driving previously and not had a problem so they have a "she'll be right" attitude instead of understanding the impairment.

"They believe the risk of staying home and not seeing anybody and being more socially isolated is more harmful to them," she said.

But Dr Armstrong said alcohol remained a factor in about 20% of all fatal car crashes.

She said apart from the safety issue, if people in rural areas lost their licence they might lose their employment and end up further socially isolated.

"Particularly if they're working on a mine site - how do they get to the site and home, and they wouldn't be able to drive vehicles as part of daily activity," she said.

Dr Armstrong - who was a speaker at the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety Conference in Brisbane on Monday - told APN communities needed to find ways to support people getting home safely after a drink.

She said a public safety taxi network would be difficult in Maura or Biloela because the driver would have little to do Monday 9am to Friday 5pm.

But Dr Armstrong said rostering designated drivers or getting a courtesy bus to point A and supplementary transport to Point B could

"I think one of the best things about the country and rural communities is that they are very inclusive," she said.

"So it's about using good networks that communities in these areas do have about tackling the issue themselves."



  • At 0.05% BAC you're twice as likely to have a motor vehicle crash.
  • At 0.15% you're 25 times more likely to crash.