Drink Driving: The Need To Know
10 November, 2023
Drink driving is a serious offence with devastating consequences. In Australia, it is prohibited to operate a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.05% or higher in the system. A high concentration of alcohol in the blood causes severe impairment, leading to an increased risk of accidents. Therefore, law enforcement conducts roadside breath screening to determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol. Individuals exceeding the legal limit may face legal consequences.
Impaired driving is one of the top factors for road accidents. Therefore, setting an alcohol limit helps deter dangerous driving. As a result, it reduces incidents on the road. Moreover, individuals must be aware of relevant driving laws to avoid penalties. This article aims to provide an overview of the legalities of alcohol-related driving in Australia. It includes what driving while impaired is, penalties, and how to avoid intoxicated or negligent driving.
What is Drink Driving
Drink driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. It involves driving over the prescribed limit for alcohol. Moreover, it is considered a criminal offence as it poses a significant risk to other road users. Therefore, individuals must adhere to the allowable blood alcohol level to prevent legal charges.
A person consuming high amounts of alcohol is prone to severe impairment. This often affects judgment, reaction time, cognitive functions, and motor skills. The more the alcohol consumption, the more severe the impairment. Thus, it diminishes the ability of a person to control a vehicle and recognise danger signs on the road.
Police officers conduct mandatory or random breath testing to monitor intoxicated drivers. This helps deter individuals from engaging in excessive consumption. During a sobriety inspection, individuals must blow to a police breathalyser to measure their BAC level. If the BAC exceeds the legal limit, the driver may face corresponding penalties. Breathalysers are non-invasive and give rapid results.
Legal BAC Limits in Australia
- The general limit in Australia for most drivers.
- This applies to fully licensed holders across all states and territories.
- This limit applies to novice drivers or drivers with learner permits (P1 and P2 licenses)
- Drivers of heavy vehicles, including trucks and vehicles carrying dangerous goods.
- Drivers carrying passengers for hire or reward, such as taxis, Uber, and private car charter.
- Individuals who have a limited license due to previous driving offences.
- Individuals under an alcohol interlock program.
- Drivers of passenger vehicles with more than 12 adult passengers, including the driver. This includes buses and troop carriers.
Penalties and Charges of Drink Driving
The penalties and charges of drink driving in Australia vary depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offence. Firstly, a low-range offence involves a BAC of less than 0.05 to 0.079%. Drivers may incur a maximum fine of $1,100 for first-time offenders and $2,200 for second or subsequent offences. In addition, individuals may face a minimum disqualification period of three to six months.
Secondly, mid-range offences involve a BAC of 0.08 to 0.14%. Drivers may pay up to $2,200 to $3,300 for first-time and repeat offenders. Additionally, individuals may face a minimum disqualification period of 6 to 12 months and maximum jail terms of 9 to 12 months. This can also result in a criminal record and convictions.
Lastly, high-range offences involve BAC above 0.15%. This includes a maximum penalty fine of $3,300 to $5,500 and a minimum disqualification period of 12 months to two years. Individuals may also serve a maximum term of 18 months to two years in prison. On top of that, drivers are subjected to a mandatory alcohol interlock scheme.
Interlock Devices and Programs
The court imposes an alcohol interlock order on drivers with high-risk driving offences or repeat violations. This program requires the installation of an alcohol interlock device in the vehicle. It is a type of breath-testing machine that measures the BAC. However, it will prevent the vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol in the breath sample.
The device needs periodic recalibration and servicing to maintain its accuracy. Moreover, individuals must complete the interlock period with no further violations or offences. This aims to minimise the likelihood of driving while under impairment. Therefore, it promotes accountability and reduces the risk of road accidents.
Strategies to Avoid Drink Driving
There are several strategies to avoid drink driving. One measure is to set a limit to the number of standard drinks. It is essential to be aware of personal limits and how alcohol affects the body. Additionally, pacing is an effective way to slow the effects of alcohol. It is best to limit the consumption to one standard drink per hour. Likewise, alternating alcoholic with non-alcoholic beverages can prevent the BAC from rising quickly.
Another strategy is to plan a designated driver or make alternative arrangements, such as getting public transport. Furthermore, a simple yet effective method is to test the BAC using a portable breathalyser. Individuals may use the device every hour or a few rounds of drinks to monitor their BAC level.
If the blood alcohol concentration approaches the legal limit, it is best to stop drinking. It is also important to ensure the BAC has started declining. Any amount of alcohol in the system is considered unsafe for driving. Therefore, it is best to avoid driving until the BAC level is zero.
How to Operate a Breathalyser to Monitor BAC Level
The rate of BAC increase varies from person to person. A breathalyser is a convenient method to monitor the alcohol levels accurately. Operating the device is easy and involves a few steps. Firstly, press the power button and wait until the message to blow appears on the screen.
Secondly, exhale into the breathalyser firmly and steadily for five seconds or longer. Lastly, check the BAC reading on the display. There are many types available, including police-grade units. Moreover, some devices like the BACtrack smartphone breathalysers can estimate when the BAC will return to zero. It is vital to regularly recalibrate the device.
Drink driving is a serious offence with severe penalties and consequences. It poses significant safety hazards, including accidents, injuries, and fatal crashes. Therefore, police officers conduct regular roadside alcohol screening to ensure the safety of drivers and other road users. Australia follows a BAC limit of 0.05%. Thus, individuals who exceed their corresponding limit are subject to penalties and charges. The law applies to novice drivers, who must have zero alcohol in their system at all times.
The penalties vary depending on the severity of the offence. It includes hefty fines, license suspension, and prison terms. High-risk drink drivers may also get an alcohol interlock condition. It requires them to install an interlock device and provide a clear sample of breath to drive. To avoid the dangers of reckless driving, individuals may observe several strategies. One of the most efficient methods is to use a breathalyser to monitor the BAC level accurately.