Know the Facts

Helping you make informed decisions about your drinking

Drinking and Driving

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your central nervous system, affecting both your physical and mental functioning. Because of this, drinking alcohol affects your ability to drive a car or truck, ride a motorcycle or scooter, and ride a bicycle. Alcohol impairs your ability to do these things because it:

  • Impairs your judgement and decision making abilities
  • Slows your reaction time and reflexes
  • Limits your ability to multi-task
  • Reduces your attention and concentration span
  • Causes blurred vision and impaired hearing
  • Disrupts your balance and coordination

What’s the risk?

Drink driving is a major cause of deaths and injuries on Australian roads. An estimated 1 in 5 drivers and riders who are killed in accidents have a blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeding the legal limit. The risk rises sharply as your BAC rises.

  • If your BAC is 0.05, you are twice as likely to crash
  • If your BAC is 0.08, you are seven times more likely to crash
  • If your BAC is 0.15, you are twenty-five times more likely to crash

Risk compared to if your BAC was 0.00

Legal limits and penalties

Australian State and Territory Laws specify a legal limit of 0.05 BAC for people who are fully-licensed. This means you have to be under 0.05. For people on a learner licence, the BAC limit is zero. For people with a probationary licence or some other special licence (e.g., taxi or heavy vehicle licence), the legal BAC limit is between zero and 0.02 depending on your State or Territory. The penalties for drink driving depend on your BAC level, but generally include heavy fines, loss of licence, or in some cases imprisonment.

Please refer to the table below to find your local BAC laws.

ACTDepartment of Territory and Municipal Services
NSWRoads and Maritime Services
QLDDepartment of Transport and Main Roads
SADepartment of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
WAOffice of Road Safety
NTSafe Road Use
TASDepartment of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources


  • Australian Transport Council. (2008). National Road Safety Action Plan: 2009 and 2010. Australian Government, Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
  • Chin, S.B. & Pisoni, D.B. (1997). Alcohol and Speech. (Chapter 2: The nature and pharmacology of alcohol.) San Diego: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/B978-012172775-8/50002-X
  • National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Commonwealth of Australia: Australian Capital Territory.
  • Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales. (2000). Drink driving: Problem definition and countermeasures summary.