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Drink Driving Safety & Laws: How Many Drinks Can You Have And Drive?

Having a drink after work or on the weekend is a regular occurrence for many hard working Australians.

Chances are, you’ve had a few beers and you’ve realised you have no idea whether you’re under the legal limit.

So how many drinks can you have and drive? And how long after drinking can I drive?

Before we get into the details, it’s important to say it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t know – don’t drive.

Death is only one of many possible outcomes

According to the Western Australian Road Safety Commission, an average of 40 people are killed in drink driving-related crashes in Western Australia every year.

However, this statistic doesn’t take into account the many more accidents that occur every year that cause serious personal injury, or damage to property. If you’re facing a criminal charge – make sure you’re aware of the consequences – call our team of qualified criminal lawyers today.

Drinking severely affects your driving ability

When we drive we rely on our body’s motor skills, comprehension, and spatial awareness to react and make decisions – sometimes in short spaces of time. The effects of alcohol on driving are serious and can have a negative impact on your driving ability. After a drink too many, expect any combination of the following:

  • Reduced reaction time and slower reflexes
  • Slower eye muscle function – vision impairment
  • Reduced concentration – your ability to focus is drastically reduced
  • Poor decision making – drunk drivers are prone to making over zealous moves in traffic which could cause an accident
  • Poor coordination – a driver’s hands, feet, and eye function are reduced.

Drinking and driving laws are strict and well-enforced

Across Western Australia, drink driving laws are strict. The WA police patrol both at night and even during mornings with random breath testing (RBT) locations around the city and in regional areas too. Whether you’re caught, or involved in an accident, the consequences could be severe.

What is the legal limit?

In Western Australia, the legal limits are very clear. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is greater than 0.05% you are over the limit and are eligible for a fine and demerit points.

This table shows the infringements per BAC level:

Blood Alcohol Concentration Fine Demerits
≥ 0.05 but < 0.06 $1,000 3
≥ 0.06 but < 0.07 $1,000 4
≥ 0.07 but < 0.08 $1,000 5

 So how many drinks can you have and drive?

It depends. A glass of wine and a pint of Indian Pale Ale (IPA) could very well give you different readings depending on your body type. According to National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines, 1 standard drink contains 10grams of alcohol, and the effects vary considerably from person to person.

How long after drinking can I drive?

This depends on how much you have had to drink. Normally it takes a person one hour to process 1 standard drink. Often, people would drive the following day after drinking copious amounts of alcohol the day before. It should be noted that the liver may not be able to process and digest all the alcohol in time. Consequently, it is common for drivers to be caught with  drink driving charges the following day during a random RBT.

I’m on my L or P plates. Can I have one drink and drive?

No. It’s illegal for anyone on a provisional or learner’s licence to drink and then drive. As a learner and provisional licence holder, it’s important you keep your BAC level at 0.00, whenever you’re behind the wheel. As per the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act 2008, if someone on a provisional licence commits an offence under section 71C of the Road Traffic Act 1974, there will be an immediate suspension of the licence.

 What about extraordinary driver’s licenses?

Extraordinary driver’s licences or EDLs are held by anyone who has been disqualified from driving but allowed to keep driving under strict conditions – one of those being a zero BAC level. If you’ve had your licence suspended but can prove that your circumstances require you to keep driving – you can apply for an EDL. The court will need to be satisfied that:

  1. You need to drive in order to obtain urgent and necessary medical treatment for yourself or a family member.
  2. Driving is an integral part of your income and taking away your licence will cause financial hardship on you or your family.
  3. You need to drive yourself or a family member to work and there are no other means of transport available.

Drivers with extra responsibility on the roads

For anyone who is in charge of heavy vehicles, commercial or other modes of transport, it’s important you know your legal BAC limit.

For anyone in the following groups – you must have a zero BAC level when driving:

  • Taxi drivers and Uber drivers
  • Drivers of vehicles over 22.5-tonne GCM
  • Drivers carrying dangerous goods
  • Drivers of busses and charter vehicles

What about drinking while driving on a boat?

Many West Australians own or have access to a boat, and having a drink while out on the water may seem like a romantic idea, according to Section 59 of the Western Australian Marine Act 1982, operating a vessel under the influence is strictly illegal. If you are caught operating a boat under the influence, you can expect a $1000 fine – similar to that of a first-time offence on the roads.

Facing a drunk driving charge? Know where you stand.

If you’ve been caught drink driving the legal consequences could be serious, and it’s good to know where you stand.

Get in touch with the team here at WN Legal.

We are ready to advise you on your situation and ensure you get the best outcome possible. Give our qualified criminal lawyers a call today and book your initial appointment.

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