New Year's Booze Bans Succeed in Sydney

By Dirk Hanson 01/03/12

Cops and doctors report fewer ambulance runs, fights and "boof-heads," thanks to numerous alcohol-free zones.

A safer party this year Photo via

Sydney, Australia may have been one of the earliest New Year's parties to start, but it was a frustrating place for revelers intent on public drinking. Anyone carrying alcohol was banned from most of the choice viewing sites for the city’s lavish harbor fireworks show, as governing councils expanded the city’s annual booze-free zones in an effort to turn the evening back over to families and children. Alcohol-free zones included parks, harbor viewing areas, and whole streets. The result? The commander of a local ambulance service told The Australian that there was an 83% reduction in ambulance runs involving intoxication or alcohol abuse.  And the head of emergency at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney saw a sharp drop in the number of admissions for injuries due to fights. “What’s happened in the past,” he recalls, “is that people with all sorts of injuries sat in the emergency room for hours and hours, getting angrier and angrier.” Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch claims that the city experienced a 50% drop in violent crimes for the evening. The reason: “Far less drunk boof-heads punching on.” Australian physicians and police officers are considering the use of alcohol-free zones for other public holidays.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]