Is it illegal to have an open vessel containing alcohol in your car?
Yes and no, as it depends on what state of Australia that you're in.
Aussies love the idea of enjoying alcoholic drinks on the highway as passengers, a practice otherwise known as 'roadies'. But, this is actually illegal in some states of Australia, like Tasmania and the ACT.
In West Australia and Queensland it goes further, as it is illegal to drink on a street, including in a car, in WA. There have also been cases in Queensland where people have been charged with drink driving as they have sat in a car drinking, with their keys on them (thereby fulfilling QLD’s requirement for being 'in charge' of the vehicle).
Interestingly, road departments in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia make no explicit mention of it being illegal to have an open vessel of alcohol in your car. They also have no mention in law as to whether it is illegal for passengers to drink alcohol while someone else drives (the inference is the person driving is in full control of the vehicle and remains under the blood alcohol limit for their licence).
It is, however, illegal to drink alcohol on public transport or in taxis in NSW and Victoria, with fines of up to $1100 per-person applying. Amazingly, in many states of Australia it is also illegal to be over 0.05 BAC while riding a bicycle or even a horse.
Learner drivers also need to be aware their supervising driver must not be drinking alcohol, and must have a blood alcohol concentration of zero in South Australia, or 0.05 in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and WA.
We can’t find specific legislation making it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car in the Northern Territory, per se. However, there are regions in the NT where it is illegal to consume alcohol (called Dry Areas), and it would definitely be illegal to have an open alcoholic vessel in your car while driving through – or stopped in – these areas. Given the potential for ending up in jail, it would be best if you read the Northern Territory government’s website before planning a trip, before accidentally breaking a serious law there.
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.