Despite police resources being shifted to ACT border duties during the COVID lockdown period, the NRMA says it was "genuinely shocked" by the huge decline in drink driving tests in Canberra in the past year, and the high number of positive readings.
Roadside breath testing by ACT police fell by 29 per cent in 2020-21, compared with 2019-20.
A analysis by the NRMA, released as part of its latest report Boost The Bus - RBT every driver, has also revealed that the proportion of positive tests in the ACT had risen to 2.3 per cent, compared with 0.5 per cent in NSW.
"When we ran the data for the ACT, we were genuinely shocked at how high that positive result rate was," NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said.
"Complacency about drink-driving is certainly creeping back into the community and there needs to be much more effort given to address it, both in enforcement and education."
Over the past decade, after reaching a peak of 144,286 tests in 2013-14, ACT police have shifted their strategy away from random breath-testing to a more targeted approach.
Static roadside testing, police say, is more likely to generate negative results.
But the NRMA believes that for a anti-drink-driving effort to be truly effective, it should involve a combination of both random and targeted testing.
"We know and accept that during COVID police couldn't continue to do testing at the rate they were because they were required to take on other responsibilities," Mr Khoury said.
"In NSW, they were monitoring lockdown areas, in the ACT it was on the border.
"There is merit in targeted RBT but there's only so many pubs you can hit so many times.
"While you need to be targeting areas where you think you know you have more people taking the risk [of drink driving], equally you need police to be seen doing this on the main roads where they are highly visible.
"We support both approaches by police."
There were around 340,000 licence holders in the ACT in 2020, according to federal government data, while 39034 drivers were breath-tested in the same period.
Both the NRMA and Austroads, the national body which informs transport policy-making across the country, has recommended the number of breath tests to be increased to 1.1 per license holder in each jurisdiction, and over the longer term to 1.5 tests per licence holder.
In its report issued last year, Austroads found that drink-driving was involved in about 18 per cent of all road fatalities nationally, resulting in more than 200 deaths a year and thousands of serious injuries.
Like the NRMA, it recommended "increasing the number and hours of highly visible random breath testing, combined with covert operations, to improve deterrence".
Detective acting Superintendent Emily McCallum from ACT Policing said that "as we move to a more normal COVID world, we can expect the number of positive tests to decline as we increase the number of static RBTs conducted".
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