What are NSW's drink driving limits?

Published 02 Nov 2017

Alcohol is a factor in approximately one in every five motor accidents in the state, according to figures from Transport for NSW.

The organisation's data shows the number of drivers and riders killed who had illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels has dropped significantly over the years. There were 244 deaths in 1980, but this had fallen to 44 by 2012.

Nevertheless, drunk driving is a major cause of crashes and is easily preventable. Let's examine the current limits in NSW, as well as some of the effects alcohol has on drivers when they are behind the wheel.

How much is too much?

The legal consumption limit differs depending on the driver's experience and the vehicle they are operating. Here is a quick summary:

  • Zero BAC: Anything above a zero BAC reading is illegal for all learner drivers and riders, including those with provisional 1 or 2 licences or equivalent overseas learner permits;
  • Under 0.02: Drivers of vehicles with a gross mass of 13.9 tonnes or more must have BAC readings of below 0.02. People transporting dangerous goods are also included in this category, as well as bus and taxi drivers;
  • Under 0.05: All other drivers, including those with foreign licences, fall within this limit.

BAC refers to the grams of alcohol in your system for every 100 millilitres of blood. In other words, if you have a BAC of 0.02, there is 0.02 grams (or 20 milligrams) of alcohol in 100 millilitres of your blood.

The effect of alcohol on your driving

Eighty-nine per cent of drunk drivers and riders killed on the state's roads between 2008 and 2012 were male, according to the NSW Centre for Road Safety. Two-thirds were younger than 40 years old.

The organisation lists several ways that alcohol negatively affects your driving abilities, including:

  • Slowing your decision-making skills and reaction times;
  • Impacting your ability to gauge speed and your distance from other road users;
  • Reducing balance and coordination, which is particularly harmful for motorcyclists;
  • Providing a false sense of confidence, leading to risk-taking behaviour; and
  • Causing drowsiness, which may result in falling asleep at the wheel.

Furthermore, you may not be entitled to compensation in situations where you were at fault for a motor vehicle accident and are found over the legal drink-driving limit.

However, please contact a member of our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers if you've suffered injuries due to a crash that involved drunk drivers.

You may be eligible for a payout when you are not to blame for the incident.