Is it illegal to drink alcohol in a car while driving?
Yes and no, as the laws vary according to state legislation.
While Australia is known as a nation of alcohol-loving rouges, it's mostly illegal to drink an alcoholic beverage while driving. New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria all have explicit laws forbidding a driver drinking alcoholic beverages.
Interestingly enough we were unable to find legislation explicitly forbidding drivers from consuming alcohol while driving in Western Australia, South Australia, or the Northern Territory. It is still illegal to drive over the prescribed blood alcohol limit in those states and territories, however.
The nation-wide blood alcohol limit for fully licenced drivers is 0.05, which can catch some American tourists unawares as there are states in the USA which have 0.08 blood alcohol limits. Another way some drivers are caught out is by failing to remember the limit is 0.05 so you need to blow 0.049 to be clear to drive.
For Learner and Provisional drivers around Australia there is a zero-tolerance for any alcohol. People driving trucks over 13 tonnes or carrying dangerous goods, buses, taxis and other public vehicles have a zero limit in Victoria, but this rises to 0.02 in NSW.
A breath test is a measurement of the grams of alcohol your body has processed that is in 100ml of your blood, and so is affecting your blood stream. What can make this tricky is that your body will process the booze over time, so an incredible amount of factors can affect your breathalyser reading, including your weight, height, food intake during that day, amount of sleep you’ve had, stress, heat of the day, how active you have been, and more.
The generally accepted mantra is that the average male can drink up to two standard drinks in the first hour, and up to one standard drink per-hour after that. For women it is generally up to one standard drink per-hour.
Where some people are caught unawares is forgetting that most bottles of beer are over one standard drink each, though they will have the number of standard drinks per-serve printed on them, so that makes it easier to track.
However, beer, wine and spirits sold in glasses won’t have that information readily available, and many will be over one standard drink per-glass. If you’re drinking pints, they can often be nearly two standard drinks per-glass!
If you have any doubts about your ability to drive, or whether you are over the limit, don’t drive. The risk to yourself and others in society are far heavier than the brutal penalties handed out if you are caught.
This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.