From May 20, drink drivers charged with a low-range offence for the first time, will receive an immediate three month licence suspension and fine of $561.
The new penalties are clearly aimed at bypassing the courts, from which 56 per cent of people with a low-range charge leave without conviction - a stat that Roads Minister Andrew Constance has cited.
At the outset it should be noted that this is in no way condoning or excusing drink driving - it is a crime and those who perpetrate it should be targeted and charged - this is an examination of those covered by the aforementioned figure, who kept their licence because the court deemed it appropriate.
This occurs when the presiding magistrate weighs up; the reading; the defendant's criminal history, or lack there of; the likelihood they'll reoffend; and the circumstances of the offence - were they stopped for an RBT or were they actually driving dangerously? Also if it's a "morning after offence", when the alcohol still in their system from the previous night exceeds 0.05, even though they're not drunk as such.
Each case is unique, but they typically look like; a middle-aged driver, who's been licensed for decades, with only a handful of speeding tickets to their name; tries to sneak home after a couple of post-work drinks; they're breathalised and go 0.06 or so.
The court treats it as a "slip-up". However, a second low-range offence isn't looked upon as favourably, it attracts a minimum six-month disqualification and a fine up to $2,200. Also, if it occurred on a good-behaviour bond, it will be revoked and you'll be re-sentenced for the original matter.
Yes, an automatic fine and suspension is a pretty good deterrent, but - as the NSW Law Society pointed out - so is the confronting prospect of appearing in court, carrying personal references you collected with your tail between your legs.
Drink driving at any range is unacceptable, but these new penalties are toughest on those at the wrong end of the scale.