Factsheets Alcohol and Driving

How does alcohol affect your driving?

Driving involves many skills. When you are driving you have to pay attention to many things at once, and you have to do many different things at once. You also have to react quickly when you need to. Alcohol:
  • Slows down your reactions – if something happens, you’ll react more slowly.
  • Makes you less co-ordinated 
  • Gives you false confidence and makes you take risks – it’s harder to control what you do
  • Makes you sleepy and relaxed – you may fall asleep at the wheel
  • Makes things blurry. Your vision also narrows, so it’s harder to see things at the side
  • Makes you less accurate when you are judging speed and distances.
These are not great for driving!
It doesn’t matter how good a driver you are – these things happen to experts as well.
Even if you feel OK, you may be unable to drive well. Remember – alcohol gives you false confidence.

Alcohol and road accidents?

As your blood alcohol content (BAC) rises, you are much more likely you are to have a road accident. 
  • If your BAC is .05% you are twice as likely to have an accident
  • If your BAC is .08% you are 7 times more likely to have an accident
  • If your BAC is .15% you are 25 times more likely to have an accident
What’s more, if you do have an accident, it may be more serious. People are more like to injure or kill someone when they have been drinking.

Legal limits

Limits vary in different states and countries, and for different groups. They may also change over time. Look up the limits for your state.
  • In Australia, people with a learner or provisional licence must have 0.00% BAC.
  • People with an open licence must be below 0.05% BAC.

What’s at risk?

Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol are very severe. They vary from state to state. Fines may range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. You may lose your license for months or years. Repeat offenders may be sent to jail. If you are over the legal limit when you have an accident, you are not insured. You will have to pay for any damage to property or other people. If you harm someone when you are driving under the influence of alcohol, you can also be charged with other offences, like dangerous or culpable driving. Those carry extra penalties.

How can I avoid it?

You can count drinks and slow down drinking, but there are risks to that idea. It’s easy to lose count, and eating food changes the time you need to allow. Some people take longer to get their BAC down. And remember, any alcohol at all will affect how well you drive, and whether you can avoid an accident. The safest option is, don’t drive if you plan to drink. Some ideas:
  • If it’s a party at a friend’s house, plan to stay over
  • Take a taxi (share one with friends if you can), or use public transport
  • Catch a ride with someone who has not been drinking, or ask a friend to pick you up.
It may seem cheaper and easier to drive yourself. But it will cost a lot of money if you are caught – and imagine what would happen if you lost your license, or had an accident. A bit of planning now can save you plenty of heartache and regret later.