The Christmas holiday period coincides with an increase in fatalities on NSW roads. During last year’s Christmas period (between December 2018 to January 2019), 217 people lost their lives on Australian roads. In the past twelve months there has been 1,282 road deaths on Australian roads

With end of year parties, gatherings and celebrations regularly involving alcohol, road users must be extra vigilant in making appropriate plans for transport and always have alternative plans after consuming alcohol.

When people drink alcohol and then drive it increases the risks of having an accident:

  1. a person with a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 (low-range) doubles the risk of having an accident;
  2. a person with a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 (mid-range) is 7 times more likely to be involved in an accident; and
  3. a person with a blood alcohol reading of 0.15 (high-range) is 25 times more likely to be in an accident.

The penalties

Drink driving attracts serious penalties. A summary of Court imposed penalties and disqualification periods for drink driving matters are below:

Low Range 0.05 to 0.081st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$1,100$2,200
ImprisonmentNilNil
Automatic disqualification period6 months3 months
Minimum disqualification3 months1 month
Maximum disqualification
Minimum interlockN/A12 months
Mid Range 0.08 to 0.151st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$2,200$3,300
Imprisonment9 months12 months
Automatic disqualification period12 months3 years
Minimum disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum disqualification6 months
Minimum interlock12 months24 months
High Range 0.15 or greater1st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$3,300$5,500
Imprisonment18 months2 years
Automatic disqualification period5 years5 years
Minimum disqualification6 months9 months
Maximum disqualification9 months12 months
Minimum interlock24 months48 months

Morning after offences

More and more people are being charged with drink driving the day after consuming alcohol. There is no way to speed up alcohol exiting your body. A healthy liver will break down less than one standard drink per hour. If your liver is damaged it takes longer.

Coffee, showers, water and/or food will not work. The only thing that will allow you to sober up is time. After a night of consuming alcohol, you may still be over your legal alcohol limit for much of the next day.

Examples for P-plate licence holders

For young drivers, it can take more than 18 hours for their blood alcohol concentration to return to zero. The following are examples of how long it may take for alcohol to leave a younger drivers system:

John
John is 19 and holds a P2 licence with a zero-alcohol limit. If John started drinking at 6pm and had 10 schooners of full strength beer (15 standard drinks) over 6 hours at midnight his blood alcohol concentration would be 0.17. It would take John more than 11 hours before John’s blood alcohol concentration returned to zero. John would have to wait until almost noon the following day before he could legally drive.

Sue
Sue is 18 and holds a P1 licence with a zero-alcohol limit. If Sue started drinking at 10pm and had 6 premixed drinks (9 standard drinks) over 4 hours at 2am her blood alcohol concentration would be 0.24. It would take Sue more than 16 hours before Sue’s blood alcohol concentration returned to zero. Sue would have to wait until 6pm the following day before she could legally drive.

Drinking and boating

Driving under the influence of alcohol is an offence when boating. Breath testing, including random breath testing (RBT), can be conducted on the driver of a boat (the skipper) while it is underway (including drifting).

Permissible concentration of alcohol limits are as follows:

  1. 0.00 for recreational skippers aged under 18 years (youth range);
  2. Less than 0.05 for recreational skippers over 18 years; and
  3. Less than 0.02 for commercial skippers (special range).

Being detected more than the permissible concentration of alcohol by way of a breath test may result in NSW Police issuing a Court Attendance Notice.RBT does not apply when a vessel is moored, berthed or at anchor. However, a designated driver (skipper) should remain under the legal limit when out on the water in case they need to move the boat.

Who must be under the legal alcohol limit?

The operator of a vessel includes anyone steering or exercising control over the course or direction of a vessel. This includes

  1. The Skipper;
  2. The observer in a ski boat or personal watercraft; and
  3. Any person being towed (i.e. a skier, tuber or wake boarder).

What if the boat is moored or at anchor?

RBT does not apply when a vessel is moored, berthed or at anchor. However, a designated driver (skipper) should remain under the legal limit when out on the water in case they need to move the boat.

What are the penalties?

Penalties for PCA boating offences are serious and include losing your license, fines of up to $5,500 and/or two (2) years imprisonment.

Being detected more than the permissible concentration of alcohol by way of a breath test may result in immediate suspension of a boat driving licence and/or Police issuing a Court Attendance Notice.

The following table sets out the penalties for each offence:

Youth Range PCA1st offence2nd+ offence
Maximum Fine$1,100$2,200
Disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum Gaol SentanceN/AN/A
Special Range PCA1st offence2nd+ offence
Maximum Fine$1,100$2,200
Disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum Gaol SentanceN/AN/A
Low Range PCA1st offence2nd+ offence
Maximum Fine$1,100$2,200
Disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum Gaol SentanceN/AN/A
Mid Range PCA1st offence2nd+ offence
Maximum Fine$2,200$3,300
Disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum Gaol Sentance9 months12 months
High Range PCA1st offence2nd+ offence
Maximum Fine$3,300$5,500
Disqualification3 months12 months
Maximum Gaol Sentance18 months24 months

Turnbull Hill Lawyers wish everyone a safe and enjoyable 2019/2020 holiday period. We urge you to take care on the roads and waterways and to always have an appropriate plan in place if alcohol is being consumed.


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