On the first day of Christmas - it was time to choose who would be designated driver or would a taxi be the vehicle of choice through the party season

Posted on 21 November 2013

Drink driving over the Christmas period

On the first day of Christmas it was time to choose who would be designated driver or would a taxi be the vehicle of choice through the party season.

During the Holiday Season, drivers are reminded regularly via media and signs on our major roads that Double Demerit Periods are operational for those who speed. Your points and ultimately your licence, are on the line. Keeping every member of your car and other road users safe should be a priority for all motorists at all times but planning how to achieve that is often not considered until the drive home comes into question.

How much alcohol can you consume before it is unlawful to drive a vehicle

Knowing how much you can drink to drive safely is not always easy to gauge. Many individual factors come into play when trying to calculate if your blood alcohol reading is under the 0.05 legal limit to be able to legally and safely drive home.

The NSW Department of Health recommends that men should consume no more than two standard drinks in the first hour and then only one standard drink each hour after that. For women , the Department maintains that they should consume no more than one standard drink each hour. In addition, serious consideration should also be given to food consumed prior to, and after, drinking, your individual sleep patterns, your general health and fitness as well as whether you are on any prescription medication.

In addition to the above considerations you will need to take into account the fact the Department's recommendations apply only to "standard" drinks. Many offenders are often confused as to the amount of a "standard" drink and assume that a stubbie or can of alcohol is a standard drink. As evidenced by the below table, this is clearly not the case.

STANDARD SIZE DRINKS

Drink

 

Size

 

Alcohol content

Light Beer

425 mls

2.7%

Ordinary Beer

285 mls

4.9%

Wine

100 mls

12%

Spirits

1 x 30ml nip

40%

Port - Sherry

1 glass 60 mls

20%

Penalties for drink driving

There are three categories of offences in relation to drink driving under the Road Transport Act which include penalties for low range, middle range and high range blood alcohol levels, each of which carry there own minimum and maximum disqualification periods. We provide a table setting out the various penalties below: 

ALCOHOL READINGS AND APPLICABLE FINES

 

First Offence

Range

Alcohol Reading

Max Fine

Automatic Disqualification Period

Minimum Disqualification Period

Maximum Jail term applicable

Novice* Range

0.00 – 0.019

$1100.00

6 months

3 months

N /A

Special** Range

0.02 – 0.049

$1100.00

6 months

3 months

N /A

Low Range

0.05 – 0.079

$1100.00

6 months

3 months

N /A

Middle Range

0.08 – 0.149

$2200.00

12 months

6 months

9 months

High Range

0.15 +

$3300.00

3 years

12 months

18 months

 

Second Offence within 5 year period

Range

Alcohol Reading

Max Fine

Automatic Disqualification Period

Minimum Disqualification Period

Maximum Jail term applicable

Novice Range

0.00 – 0.019

$2200.00

12 months

6 months

N /A

Special Range

0.02 – 0.049

$2200.00

12 months

6 months

N /A

Low Range

0.05 – 0.079

$2200.00

12 months

6 months

N /A

Middle Range

0.08 – 0.149

$3300.00

3 years

12 months

12 months

High Range

0.15 +

$5500.00

5 years

2 months

2 years

* Novice – L & P Plate Drivers
**Special - Drivers with conditions already applicable to their licence, including L & P Plate Drivers, Taxi Drivers and Bus Drivers

Variation of penalties and non convictions

Often, our clients will ask whether or not there they will still be able to drive to work if they are found guilty of a drink driving offence. Unfortunately, the Court has no discretion to allow for variations to a disqualification of licence for drink driving offences.

This means that if you are found guilty of a drink driving offence you will not be able to drive to and from work and can have the unintended consequence of losing your employment as your employer may not be able to re-deploy you to an area of the business which does not require you to drive, assuming you are even able to get to your place of employment without a vehicle.

In addition, a section 10 non conviction order is not always available to middle and high range offenders. This means you may obtain a criminal record if you plead guilty to a drink driving offence.

Conclusion

The few extra drinks consumed at a social function or gathering can lead to disastrous consequences for the safety of yourself and others as well as your career. The loss of licence, criminal conviction and a large fine are not a Christmas present anyone would want to be handed.

Please make sure that you plan your social activities to ensure the first appointment you have in the new year is not with a local court magistrate. 

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