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Road toll and smoking campaigns good precedents for the fight against alcohol-fuelled violence


Road toll and smoking campaigns good precedents for the fight against alcohol-fuelled violence

There is widespread concern about the recent deaths from alcohol-fuelled violence. There is the risk, however, that in the same way the gun debate in the US flares after every shooting then fades away without change, a similar pattern will emerge in Australia.

And as surely as each death fades in our collective memory, another young man will be king-hit in the street and end up in a critical condition in hospital or fatally injured.

In the wake of the violence there have been calls for reforms of the sentencing laws for alcohol-fuelled violence and for changes to the curfew for licensed premises. There have also been impassioned pleas by emergency doctors and parents for people to drink less.

There has also been an overwhelming frustration and despair that this is an issue for which there is no answer. However, Australia has been faced with similar public health issues that at the time seemed insurmountable, that we have collectively tackled and defeated and we can learn from these to tackle alcohol and its impact on our lives.

A rising road toll in the 1960s and 1970s prompted many calls for driver behaviour change, essentially to no avail until the community and community leaders stood up to be counted and called a stop to the carnage. Now road deaths are a fraction of what they were and are still falling.

What changed was community commitment: we had had enough; we did not want to live in a society where you had to run the gauntlet with death every time you crossed the street or got into your car.

As a society we committed to a strategic introduction of a road safety program based on better cars, better roads and better road-user behaviour, all regulated by legislation that was rigorously enforced.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine wrote recently in a newspaper article that "the Coalition government will never rest until the road toll is zero". That is the type of government commitment needed in the fight to curb alcohol-fuelled violence.

Critical to the success of this long-term strategic approach was the continual engagement of the public in the debate, ensuring that the community became a stakeholder of the policies underpinning the road safety response. Road safety advertising campaigns and the media in all its forms were key agents in the maintenance of this public debate, and this continues to be the case today.

Preventing innocent deaths from alcohol-fuelled violence is no more difficult than preventing your children being killed by speeding drivers. However, putting a stop to this violence takes more than simple outrage at each new event.

References and further information

This article was originally produced by the Sydney Morning Herald.


To view the rest of this article, visit the Sydney Morning Herald website


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