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Tragic death of four children sparks renewed debate over zero blood-alcohol limit

The tragic killing of four children, who lost their lives after being struck by an alleged drink driver on Saturday, has reignited debate about introducing a zero blood alcohol limit for motorists.

Siblings Anthony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, 9, and their cousin Veronique Sakr, 11, were walking and riding bikes along a footpath in Oatlands, in north-west Sydney, when they were hit and killed on Saturday night.

The 29-year-old male driver of the ute which hit them allegedly returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.15, three times the legal limit.

Dr John Crozier, National Trauma Committee chair at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said such tragedies should drive home the importance of not drinking and driving.

“The tragedies of things like this should be used to explore whether there’s more that we can do to send the signal that driving with any alcohol on board significantly degrades judgement and driving skills,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

Dr Crozier said a zero blood alcohol limit would reduce road deaths, but it would be unpopular and possibly impractical.

“Zero is probably not the sweet spot politically,” he said.

“A small amount of cough mixture consumed just before you step into a car might cause you to register a low limit of alcohol in your system.”

But better use of existing penalties could drastically improve road fatality rates.

“Magistrates, not infrequently, let people off without the range of proportionate penalties that might be levied,” he said.

“Too frequently we then see recidivism of those drivers, who repeat the offence and cause crashes.

“There are things like alcohol interlocks … that can be perhaps mandatorily brought in with a first offence.”

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Image: Picture Alliance / Getty