Alcohol and driving
Any alcoholic drink which contains 10 grams of alcohol is called a standard drink. As the alcohol content of drinks varies greatly, it takes differing amounts of different types of alcohol to make up a standard drink.
The biggest problem with keeping drinks standard and within the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is that drinks can be served in larger glasses - and with more alcohol - than standard drinks. The following standard drinks have approximately 8-10 grams of alcohol:
- 30ml of spirits (40% alc/vol)
- 60ml of fortified wine (18% alc/vol)
- 100ml of champagne (12% alc/vol)
- 100ml of wine (12% alc/vol)
- 150ml of light wine (8% alc/vol)
- 280ml of standard strength beer (4.9% alc/vol)
- 375ml of low-alcohol beer (2.8% alc/vol)
Your BAC is determined by many factors, including what you drink, how quickly you drink, how much you have eaten, how much you weigh, your gender, the health of your liver and even how fit you are. Aerated alcoholic drinks like champagne and sparkling wines can also cause your BAC to rise quicker than other drinks with the same alcohol content. As a general rule, to stay under 0.05:
- men can have 2 standard drinks in the first hour and 1 drink each following hour
- women can have only 1 standard drink in the first hour and 1 each following hour
You can check your BAC by using a coin-operated breath tester on licensed premises but remember that these machines are not guaranteed to be accurate.
- a smaller person will have a higher BAC than a larger person
- a person with more body fat will tend to have a higher BAC
- women absorb alcohol faster and usually have a higher BAC than a men who drink the same amount.
No, the liver eliminates alcohol from the body at around one standard drink per hour. Once alcohol is in your system, the only way to lower it is to let time pass without drinking more alcohol. Drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, exercising, getting fresh air, or vomiting DOES NOT lower BAC.
Your BAC will rise as soon as you start drinking and will peak around 30-60 minutes after you stop drinking. However, alcohol metabolism is a very individual thing, and your BAC may continue to rise for up to two hours after your last drink.
Yes, you can be over the limit the morning after drinking. It can take many hours for alcohol to leave your body so that you are safe to drive.
Road crash statistics show that alcohol is still a major factor in the number of people killed and injured on our roads. At 0.05 BAC your risk of crashing is twice as high as a sober driver. The risk of crashing increases dramatically as your BAC level increases.
Alcohol significantly impairs vision, reaction times and co-ordination which are all important in order to drive safely.
If you are planning to drive, the only way to be certain of staying under .05 is to not drink. If you do decide to drink, reduce your risk by:
- arranging a designated driver
- taking alternative transport like a taxi or public transport
- keeping track of your drinks and how long you have been drinking for
- drinking slowly, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
- having something to eat while you're drinking
- finishing your glass before filling up again so you can keep count of your drinks
- drinking light rather than full-strength beer
- being careful when drinking mixed spirits or cocktails as you can’t be sure how much alcohol is in them
- using a coin-operated breath tester for a rough guide to your BAC
- waiting at least one hour for each standard drink consumed.
The law and penalties for drink driving can be found on the VicRoads website.
The chances of being caught drink driving are higher in Victoria than almost anywhere in the world. TAC reports over 1.46 million drivers and riders are breath tested by Victoria Police Booze Bus operations each year. In Victoria in 2012, 1 in 20 drivers were confirmed to have one or more of the illicit drugs present whilst driving and one in 238 drivers were found to driving with a BAC in excess of the prescribed amount.
Yes. Road crash statistics show that alcohol is still a major factor in the number of people killed or injured on our roads. Approximately 16% of drivers and motorcycle riders killed on Victoria’s roads have a BAC over 0.05.
It is illegal to drink alcohol while driving or supervising a learner driver.