Random Breath Testing Still Crucial to Achieve ‘Towards Zero’, 40 Years on

Forty years ago today, police in New South Wales were given the power to stop any motor vehicle at random and subject the driver to a roadside breath test. The Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) celebrates the positive impact that random breath testing (RBT) has had across NSW, the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce it.

“Road deaths in NSW, had climbed throughout the decades and by 1980 had exceeded 1,300 lives lost” Dr Prasannah Prabhakharan, Chair of the NSW Chapter of Australasian College of Road Safety said.

“The role of alcohol in these preventable tragedies was finally addressed with the introduction of RBT, and the impact on road safety was immediate.”

In 1983, the first full year of RBT, the number of lives lost on NSW roads had fallen by 23% compared to the previous year [1]. Further, the percentage of fatal crashes where alcohol has almost halved from 30% in 1980 to 18% in 2021 [2].

We express our gratitude to the NSW Parliament’s bipartisan support for RBT and the role played by road safety officials and academic researchers who provided evidence in support of the initiative.

That gratitude extends to the thousands of NSW police officers who have stood on an RBT line in all weather conditions over the past forty years to breath test tens of millions of motorists, saving thousands of lives. 

Whilst acknowledging the work done over the past 40 years, ACRS believes much work is still to be done. Last year, almost 50 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes on NSW roads.

“RBT and police enforcement will continue to be a valuable tool to drive down road trauma. Used in conjunctions with the other elements of the Safe System, we can ensure that NSW meets it’s ‘Towards Zero’ goal of zero lives lost on our roads.” Dr Prabhakharan concluded. 


[1]        Fatality Trends, Centre for Road Safety New South Wales.   http://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/statistics/fatalitytrends.html

[2]        2026 Road Safety Action Plan https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/downloads/2026-rsap.pdf