Drink driving laws: a sobering truth

NSW Police - random breath test
NSW Police - RBT

In 2019, 61 people lost their lives on NSW roads due to an alcohol-related crash with 49 lives lost on country roads.

Even so, more than one in three Australians admit they still choose to have a drink when they know they will be driving - while a further one in five adults say they still drive when not being certain they are over the legal blood alcohol limit.

This is the case even though tough new penalties were introduced in May 2019 targeting low-range drink drivers. Drivers who commit a lower-range drink-driving offence for the first time will have their licence suspended immediately, effective for three months. This will be coupled with a significant fine of $561. The same applies for drug driving.

  • Low range PCA: blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to less than 0.08
  • Novice range PCA: blood alcohol concentration more than zero for learner, P1 or P2 driver
  • Special range PCA: blood alcohol concentration over 0.02 for special category drivers (taxi drivers, bus drivers, drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods).

These drink driving reforms passed NSW Parliament in September 2018 and in 2019 we surveyed our Members about these penalties.

Our survey found that over two-thirds of people support the introduced law. Support is even higher (76%) in regional areas. Over 700 participants responded to questions about the new drink driving reforms.

“Far too many people were caught drink driving and were getting off with little more than a slap on the wrist. These new rules reflect the community’s attitudes towards the dangers of drink and drug driving,” says the NRMA's Dimitra Vlahomitros.

Under the introduced laws, simpler and more certain penalties will also apply for drug drivers. Offenders who drive with the presence of illicit drugs for the first time will receive a $561 fine and a three month licence suspension if the offence is confirmed by laboratory analysis.

Assistant Police Commissioner Michael Corboy said this reform will protect all road users by ensuring swift and certain penalties.

“Alcohol is one of the major factors in crashes that kill or injure people on NSW roads. The 0.05 blood alcohol limit has been in place for almost 38 years. There are no more excuses,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.

In 2018, the NRMA released Still Smashed to remind revellers of the risk of drink driving. The report found that almost one-quarter (23%) of drinkers believed they were still over the legal limit the next morning and an alarming one-in-four (27%) of those still got behind the wheel.

The NRMA is reminding motorists to drive safely this festive season. While it is the season to be jolly, it’s also a good idea to remind your friends and family about staying safe and sober behind the wheel.

It’s been over 40 years since the NRMA launched the state’s first ever education campaign to tackle drink driving and there is still a lot of work to be done to save lives.