The Christmas holiday period coincides with an increase in fatalities on NSW roads. During last year’s Christmas period (between December 2017 to January 2018), 232 people lost their lives on Australian roads. In the past twelve months there has been 1,193 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:

High Range 0.15 or greater1st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$3,300$5,500
Gaol18 months24 months
Minimum disqualification6 months9 months
Maximum disqualification9 months12 months
Interlock24 months48 months
Mid Range 0.08 to 0.151st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$2,200$3,300
Gaol9 months12 months
Minimum disqualification3 months6 months
Maximum disqualification6 months6 month
Interlock12 months24 months
Low Range 0.05 to 0.081st offence2nd+ offence
Fine$1,100$2,200
GaolNilNil
Minimum disqualification6 months1 months
Maximum disqualification3 months3 months
InterlockN/A12 months

Automatic suspensions for low range PCA offences and other new penalties commencing 3 December 2018

The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Penalties and Other Sanctions) Act 2018 commenced 3 December 2018. Important changes include:

  1. NSW police are now allowed to issue a penalty notices for novice range, special range and low range prescribed concentration of alcohol offences and drug related driving offences (but only if a person has not had a previous similar offence within a five year period). This will result in an automatically loss of license for 3 months and will not require a Court appearance (and possibility of a non-conviction);
  2. Any alcohol and other drug related driving offences that are dealt with by way of penalty notice are considered as first offences when determining whether a new conviction is for a second or subsequent offence;
  3. The maximum penalties for novice range, special range and low range prescribed concentration of alcohol offences and drug related driving offences increases the maximum fine from $1,100 to $2,200;
  4. Police will now be permitted to issue of immediate licence suspension notices where a driver has committed an offence relating to novice range, special range or low range prescribed concentration of alcohol (this was previous reserved for mid range offences and above);
  5. The maximum penalties for mid range prescribed concentration of alcohol offences increases the maximum fine from $2,200 to $3,300;
  6. First time mid range prescribed concentration of alcohol offences will now be subject to the mandatory interlock order and will be disqualified for between 3 to 6 months, and ordered have an interlock device fitted for 12 months;
  7. Drug related driving offences include a wider definition of “drug” (previously this only included methamphetamine, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy) and includes any substance that is likely to deprive or impair a person’s normal mental or physical faculties.
  8. Includes non-convictions as a previous offence when determining if a new offence is a second or subsequent offence.

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 2018/2019 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.

We are OPEN over the Christmas and New Year period except for the public holidays, Monday, 24 December and Monday, 31 December 2018.


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