How can small amounts of alcohol affect your driving? How can small amounts of alcohol affect your driving?

  • A. A small amount of alcohol won't affect your driving

  • B. Any amount of alcohol will have some effect on your driving

    The correct answer is B
    Any intake of alcohol impairs your judgement.

Breath screening tests

A police officer can require you to undergo a breath screening test.

There are steep fines if you refuse to consent to an evidential test. If you do need an evidential test you will need to give your vehicle keys to the police officer and you will then accompany them for a test. This might be in a roadside ‘booze bus’ (a vehicle kitted out with testing equipment), or you may have to accompany them to a police station. If you opt for the blood test they will have a medical doctor take the blood.

You can refuse an evidential blood test, but you must then consent to an evidential breath test and vice versa. If the evidential breath test result is over the limit you can request a blood test for confirmation.

You are allowed to call a lawyer before the evidential blood or breath test and if you don’t have a phone available, one will be made available for you. There are specialist drink-drive (DUI) lawyers.

Implications for your vehicle's safety

You may need to leave your vehicle on the side of the road if you are instructed by a police officer to accompany them to the station, unless someone who is with you is legally able to drive the vehicle to another location. By 'legally able' this means of legal age, holding the right type of licence, not under any kind of suspension or disqualification, and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

You can call a tow truck, but this will be at your expense and could cost a couple of hundred dollars. If you are stopped on the motorway then you will be legally required to move your vehicle 

If you choose to leave your vehicle on the side of the road then it is at risk of vandalism.


If you are 16-19 years old the alcohol limit is zero.

If you are 20 years old or over, the alcohol limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood or 250mcg per litre of breath. If your test reading is greater than 130mg per 100ml of blood or 650mcg per litre of breath you will receive an immediate on-the-spot licence suspension, as long as you have no prior convictions for operating or attempting to operate a vehicle while intoxicated (“under the influence of excess breath alcohol”), or for refusing to provide a sample, or for causing death or injury while driving under the influence. If your reading is between 251-400mcg you will receive a $200 fine and 50 demerit points and will be banned from driving for 12 hours.

If you have a previous conviction then you will receive the licence suspension immediately you are above the limit.

The suspension is for 28 days, and there are court-imposed penalties to add on the top.

Examples of fines and penalties

Killing or injuring someone while you’re driving under the influence: up to 10 years in prison, up to $20,000 fine and one year or more disqualification from driving. If you’ve already been convicted of a drink-driving offence, then your suspension will likely be more than one year.

Driving while under the influence (i.e. more than 80mg/100ml): for a first or second offence you could receive up to 3 months in jail, a fine of up to $4500 and six months or more disqualification. If you have at least two previous convictions then you could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $6000, with a disqualification of at least one year. The court may also impose a zero alcohol licence if you’ve already been convicted. If it’s your first conviction then you may need to use an alcohol interlock after a three-month disqualification.

If you are under 20 and have more than 30mg/100ml or 150mcg per litre you could face up to 3 months in jail, a fine of up to $2250 and a disqualification of 3 months or more.

If you refuse to give blood you could face up to 3 months in jail, a fine of up to $4500 and a disqualification of 6 months or more. This rises to up to 2 years in jail, up to $6000 in fines and a disqualification of more than one year if you have at least two previous convictions.

If you don’t hand over your vehicle’s keys the fine is up to $10,000.

Alcohol and drug limits

It's no longer cool to have 'one for the road'. Any consumption of alcohol has an effect on your driving by impairing your reactions, making you over-confident, making it more likely you will fall asleep at the wheel and reducing your ability to perceive speed and distance. In fact, your reactions suffer well before you even start feeling drunk.

Remember that the limit for a driver under 20 years old is effectively zero - one drink will put you over the limit.

For information about calculating your blood alcohol level and the types of fines and penalties you can get, click here.

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