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BAC Australia: Understanding the Legal Limits and Measuring BAC

31 August, 2023

Police inspecting vehicles for alcohol impairment

Knowing the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is vital to responsible drinking and driving. A person may face legal sanctions when driving with a high alcohol level. The limit for BAC in Australia is 0.05% or 0.05 grams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood. Individuals ensure they keep their BAC within the allowable limit by monitoring their intake. Many also use a breathalyser to check their alcohol content before driving.

Drink driving is one of the leading factors of road trauma. Hence, it is a serious offence with heavy penalties. Imposing an alcohol limit for driving helps minimise road crashes and accidents. Police officers conduct mandatory and random checks to determine if drivers are obeying the law. Awareness of the law helps individuals to make informed decisions. The following sections will help understand the legal limits in Australia, measuring alcohol levels, and using a breathalyser for monitoring.

Understanding the Legal Limits of BAC in Australia

The driving limit in Australia varies across different states and territories. The general limit of BAC in Australia is 0.05%. This applies to full license holders. A person is considered to be drink driving if their BAC exceeds this level. To enforce the law, police officers conduct random breath testing (RBT) across Australia. This helps identify individuals who may be under the influence of alcohol while driving.

Moreover, certain individuals have lower alcohol driving limits. For instance, operators of heavy vehicles, public vehicles, or carrying dangerous goods have a zero to 0.02% BAC limit. The regulations depend on the state or territory. Additionally, drivers with learner and provisional licenses must have zero alcohol levels.

The penalties for drink driving depend on the blood alcohol level at the time of testing. Low-risk driving may incur penalty fines and infringement notices. On the other hand, high-risk driving may lead to a longer disqualification period, jail time, and an alcohol interlock program. Therefore, it is vital to check the BAC before driving.

Drink Driving Penalties

  • Fines: It may range between $300 to $600, depending on the BAC level and if it is the first or subsequent offence.
  • Disqualification period: Suspension of license for a certain period. It may vary from three to nine months or longer.
  • Imprisonment: A court may impose one month to one year of jail time for driving violations.
  • Mandatory alcohol programs: A court may require compulsory attendance to behaviour change programs, especially for individuals with repeat offences.
  • Alcohol interlock program: It requires drivers to install a car interlock device into their vehicle. The person must have zero BAC to start the vehicle’s engine.

A woman using a personal breathalyser

Methods of Measuring the BAC in Australia

There are several methods to measure the BAC in Australia. One of the most common methods is using a breathalyser. It is a handheld device that measures the BAC through the exhaled breath. It analyses the amount of alcohol in the breath relative to the volume in the blood. The breathalyser can give alcohol readings in seconds.

Breath testing is the standard method for determining the concentrations of alcohol in a person. Another method is blood testing. It is considered the most accurate type as it directly measures the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. Law enforcement may require a blood test to give evidence in court.

Although less common than breath or blood, urine testing is another method to measure blood alcohol content. It is less invasive than blood testing but may not be as accurate or immediate as breath testing. However, it can trace alcohol metabolites longer. It is often used in workplaces for simultaneous testing with illegal drugs.

Breath Test Guidelines

Following the proper breath test guidelines is crucial to getting accurate results. An incorrect procedure may lead to false readings, and this can affect a person’s decision-making. Firstly, wait 15 to 20 minutes after eating, drinking, and smoking before using a breathalyser. This allows enough time for the absorption of alcohol to reach the lungs.

Secondly, blow continuously to the device for six seconds or longer. This ensures adequate breath samples for the sensors to analyse. In addition, always use a new mouthpiece and avoid sharing your mouthpiece with others. Lastly, wait for a few minutes before taking another test.

Monitoring the decline of high BAC level with a smartphone breathalyser

Using a Breathalyser for Monitoring BAC in Australia

Monitoring alcohol consumption can help keep the BAC from reaching hazardous levels. Some may count the number of standard drinks to keep track of their intake. However, a more convenient method is using a breathalyser. It is recommended to use a breathalyser every hour to monitor the increase of BAC in Australia.

A breathalyser is easy to use and gives instant readings. Therefore, individuals can know their BAC level in real-time. It also promotes better alcohol awareness as people can recognise the effect of different beverages on their bodies. Additionally, it allows multiple testing, making BAC monitoring more efficient.

It is vital to ensure that the BAC level has started declining before deciding to drive. The BAC may continue to increase for up to an hour after consumption. Checking if the blood alcohol level is declining can help avoid getting legal charges during a roadside breath test. Moreover, devices like BACtrack smartphone breathalysers can help monitor sobriety efficiently. It has ZeroLine technology that automatically estimates when the BAC will return to zero.

Accuracy and Reliability

Securing the accuracy and reliability of the breathalyser is vital to ensuring a safe drinking and driving experience. Breathalysers utilise different sensor technology. The fuel cell sensor provides higher precision in breath tests. It is specific to ethanol and does not react to other compounds in the breath, such as acetone.

The performance of a breath tester also depends on its maintenance and certification. Breathalysers must undergo periodic recalibration to keep the sensors in optimal condition. Workplaces typically use devices with Australian Standards certification (AS3547). This ensures that the device meets the requirements for accuracy, stability, and reliability.

Conclusion

Driving with a high BAC in Australia can have serious consequences. Individuals are more prone to getting in road crashes due to severe impairment. Thus, authorities implement roadside alcohol screening to determine if a person is safe to drive. The general blood alcohol limit is 0.05%, while probationary license holders and public transport drivers must maintain zero to 0.02% BAC. Exceeding these limits is subject to penalties, such as fines, license suspension, imprisonment, and an alcohol interlock order.

People use various strategies and methods to help them monitor alcohol consumption. Using a breathalyser is one of the most reliable ways to keep track of BAC levels. It works by measuring the amount of ethanol in the breath sample. It is also vital to follow the breath test guidelines to avoid false readings. Moreover, regular maintenance is important for accurate readings. The reliability of breathalysers helps individuals make responsible decisions when it comes to alcohol consumption and driving.

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