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1 August 2021 | See disclaimer

Find out exactly how common drink driving is, and Australians attitudes toward it, in Budget Direct’s latest survey.

Quick Stats

  • 43% of Australians surveyed don’t know how many drinks they can have, and stay under the legal blood alcohol limit
  • 1 in 4 fatal crashes within the ACT occur because of alcohol
  • 47% of surveyed Australians falsely believe they can speed up their absorption of alcohol
  • Over 50% of Australians surveyed would be in favour of having a device fitted to their car, so it would only start if they’re under the legal blood alcohol limit.

Drinking and celebrating is a common part of Australian culture. But with it comes the risk of drink driving, and the extreme dangers and risks that come as a result.

To get a true grasp on the nature of drink driving in Australia, we have compiled the latest trends statistics, and our survey data to bring you:

1.0 Laws & limits to drink driving in Australia

1.1 Drink driving punishments

The measurement used in Australia is your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). This is measured as the amount of grams of alcohol per 100mL of blood. Across Australia, the standard measure of what classifies as “drunk driving” is a BAC of 0.05, or 0.05g of alcohol per 100mL of blood.

All punishments below are for first time offenders. Across Australia, both disqualifications and fines will vary based on a variety of factors, such as (but not limited to):

  • whether the person is a repeat offender
  • whether there was a child in the car
  • what class of vehicle they were driving
  • whether their licence had been suspended.
Licence disqualification
Fines*

BAC

NSW[1]

Vic[2]

Qld[3]

WA[4]

SA[5]

Tas[6]

ACT[7]

NT[8]

Between 0 and 0.05 (as a learner or probationary driver)

3-6

3+

3-9

3+

3+

3-12

3+

3+

0.05

3-6

6+

1-9

3+

3+

3+

6+

3+

0.10

6+

10-14

3-12

11+

6+

6-18

12+

6+

0.15+

12+

15-24

6+

15+

12+

12-36

36+

12+

(shown in months)

0–0.05 (as a learner or probationary driver)

*Victoria’s fines are decided by the courts, so haven’t been included in this graph. All fines represented are the maximums the state might serve for that level of alcohol reading.

1.2 How drinks affect your BAC

Using HealthEngine’s Blood Alcohol Concentration Calculator, it’s possible to estimate the BAC of various people, based on their weight and drinking behaviours.

These examples are intended to demonstrate how weight, number of drinks, and time can influence your BAC. However, as everyone processes alcohol differently, these examples might not necessarily apply to your personal situation.

Ben is 74kg, has had 3 drinks over 2 hours, and does not have a provisional licence. He is likely to be under the legal BAC limit.

BAC = 0.030

Jono is 88kg, has had 8 drinks over 6 hours at a party. He is likely to still be over the legal BAC limit.

BAC = 0.058

Andrea is 68kg, has had 4 drinks over 4 hours, and does not have a provisional licence. She is likely to be under the legal BAC limit.

BAC = 0.027

Tanya is 62kg and has had 3 drinks over 1.5 hours at lunch. She is likely to still be over the legal BAC limit.

BAC = 0.055

Despite common myths and misconceptions, there is no way you can speed up the metabolism of alcohol. The only way to bring your BAC back to 0 is by waiting, and every person has a different rate for this[11].

2.0 Australian drink driving statistics & facts

Queensland

From 2016 to 2020, over 250 people died on Queensland roads while over the legal BAC limit[12].

New South Wales

Drink driving is responsible for 1 in every 7 crashes in New South Wales, where someone loses their life[13].

Victoria

Over the last 5 years, 1 in 5 drivers and riders who lost their lives in Victoria were over the legal BAC limit[14].

Western Australia

42 people died in Western Australia in alcohol-related crashes in 2020. Of those, 67% occurred in regional WA[15].

South Australia

Drink driving fatalities had declined by an average of 7.3% each year in South Australia since 2008[16].

Tasmania

Drivers aged 17-25 only make up 12% of Tasmania’s drivers, but cause 28% of alcohol-related serious casualties[17].

Northern Territory

Alcohol is involved in 40% of road deaths, and up to 20% of injuries on the roads in the Northern Territory[18].

Australian Capital Territory

Each year, around 1 in 4 fatal crashes within the Australian Capital Territory involve alcohol[7].

3.0 Australian drink driving survey results

State
Age
Gender

(For those that said “yes”) Were there any passengers in the car?

(For those that said “yes”) Were there any passengers in the car?

(For those that said “yes”) Were there any passengers in the car?

Younger drivers were far more likely to indicate they had driven over the legal BAC limit. For those that did indicate they had, younger drivers also had the highest rates of having passengers in the car.

22% of Australians surveyed don’t know what the BAC limit is. This number rose to nearly 40% of those aged between 18 and 24. New South Wales residents were also the most likely to be unfamiliar with the laws, with over 1 in 4 unsure of the BAC laws.

Generally, quite a few Australians sampled don’t know where their limit is, when it comes to crossing the legal BAC limit. About 48% of women indicated they don’t know how many drinks they can have, and still drive legally and safely. Unsurprisingly, over half of surveyed Australians aged 18 to 24 were unsure about how drinking affected their legal ability to drive.

3.4 Which of the following techniques do you think would help decrease your BAC (blood alcohol content)?**

 

Drinking water

Sleeping

Eating something greasy

Exercising

Drinking tea/coffee

Taking a cold shower

None of the above

NSW

37.1%

26.4%

15.0%

16.0%

14.7%

6.1%

46.6%

Vic

38.6%

32.1%

16.7%

11.0%

11.4%

5.3%

48.4%

Qld

39.0%

24.9%

16.6%

18.5%

15.6%

4.4%

48.8%

WA

43.3%

32.0%

15.5%

12.4%

13.4%

2.1%

44.3%

SA

42.3%

24.4%

18.0%

14.1%

16.7%

3.9%

50.0%

Tas

45.8%

29.2%

8.3%

16.7%

12.5%

4.2%

41.7%

Aus

39.1%

28.1%

15.7%

14.9%

13.9%

4.9%

47.4%

 

Drinking water

Sleeping

Eating something greasy

Exercising

Drinking tea/coffee

Taking a cold shower

None of the above

18-24

50.8%

28.6%

17.5%

25.4%

14.3%

12.7%

34.9%

25-34

49.8%

33.6%

21.8%

20.5%

17.9%

9.6%

35.4%

35-44

48.3%

30.5%

22.7%

14.8%

15.8%

5.9%

39.4%

45-54

26.6%

23.1%

11.0%

10.4%

11.6%

1.7%

60.1%

55-64

30.3%

24.7%

9.6%

10.1%

9.6%

1.7%

55.6%

65+

30.5%

26.0%

9.1%

13.0%

13.0%

0.7%

57.1%

Total

39.1%

28.1%

15.7%

14.9%

13.9%

4.9%

47.4%

 

Drinking water

Sleeping

Eating something greasy

Exercising

Drinking tea/coffee

Taking a cold shower

None of the above

Female

40.8%

25.9%

16.3%

12.9%

12.4%

4.3%

49.7%

Male

37.0%

30.9%

14.9%

17.4%

15.8%

5.6%

44.5%

Total

39.1%

28.1%

15.7%

14.9%

13.9%

4.9%

47.4%

**Users were able to select multiple answers, meaning values may not add up to 100%.

None of the techniques above will affect your BAC – the only way for your body to decrease its alcohol concentration is over time, and for your liver to work through it[11]. That being said, over 50% of Australians surveyed believe there are techniques that can help.

Sleeping, drinking water and eating something greasy were the most common myths for helping to decrease blood alcohol concentration.

3.5 Should all cars be fitted with a device that checks your BAC (blood alcohol content) before you’re able to start the engine?

Women are far more interested in fitting all cars with devices that check your BAC before you’re able to start the engine, with about 60% in favour (rather than only 46% of men). Victoria was also the only state in Australia that generally preferred not to have devices installed. Younger age brackets were also more likely to be in favour of the technology, whereas those aged between 45 and 54 were more likely against.

3.6 What is the minimum penalty that you believe should be given to first time drink driving offenders?

 

Fine and demerit points

Loss of licence for up to 6 months

Loss of licence for more than 6 months

Up to 6 months imprisonment

More than 6 months imprisonment

NSW

50.9%

33.1%

11.0%

2.2%

2.8%

Vic

43.5%

37.4%

13.8%

2.4%

2.9%

Qld

51.2%

38.5%

8.3%

1.5%

0.5%

WA

51.6%

36.1%

9.3%

1.0%

2.1%

SA

57.7%

26.9%

15.4%

0.0%

0.0%

Tas

41.7%

45.8%

12.5%

0.0%

0.0%

Aus

49.6%

35.5%

11.3%

1.7%

1.9%

 

Fine and demerit points

Loss of licence for up to 6 months

Loss of licence for more than 6 months

Up to 6 months imprisonment

More than 6 months imprisonment

18-24

49.2%

33.3%

12.7%

4.8%

0.0%

25-34

51.1%

34.1%

10.9%

1.3%

2.6%

35-44

50.3%

34.0%

10.8%

2.0%

3.0%

45-54

49.7%

35.3%

9.8%

2.9%

2.3%

55-64

50.0%

36.5%

12.4%

1.1%

0.0%

65+

46.1%

39.6%

12.3%

0.0%

2.0%

Total

49.6%

35.5%

11.3%

1.7%

1.9%

 

Fine and demerit points

Loss of licence for up to 6 months

Loss of licence for more than 6 months

Up to 6 months imprisonment

More than 6 months imprisonment

Female

51.2%

33.8%

11.5%

1.6%

2.0%

Male

47.6%

37.7%

11.1%

1.8%

1.8%

Total

49.6%

35.5%

11.3%

1.7%

1.9%

Australians surveyed generally think that a minimum of fines and demerit points are enough for first-time drink driving offenders, with 49.6% believing this to be a fair minimum. This is actually less than current legislation, which usually combines fines with licence suspensions.

Only around 15% of Australians surveyed believe our punishments for first-time offenders should be more strict than they currently are.

3.7 Do you think drink driving is more of an issue with younger generations or older generations?

Previous results (and data from government sources) both confirm that younger Australians are more likely to get behind the wheel over the legal limit. This coincides with how Australians feel, with around 40% believing younger generations to have worse habits (and 40% being unsure).

Time is all it takes

You can’t shortcut recovery, and use special tricks to reduce your blood alcohol concentration. All you can do is stay healthy, wait, and drive once your body has had sufficient time to process.

Plan ahead

Don’t work out what you’ll do at the end of the night. Know in advance if you’ll stay the night, be driven home, or take a taxi. That way, even if you feel okay, you know the sensible option is to stick with your original plan.

Don’t even have the option

If you don’t take your car with you, you won’t even have the option of driving under the influence. Taking public transport, carpooling, and walking can help you get to the event without a car, and subsequently, ensure you don’t drive home.

You risk it all if you drive over the limit

Generally, insurance won’t cover you if you drive over the legal limit. If the health risks to yourself and the public weren’t high enough, you also won’t be covered for any damage you might cause.

Disclaimer: This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in July 2021. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000, weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+). All other data on this website is the latest available from the named sources in this article, and was obtained in June 2021. This is general advice only and Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.

Sources

[1] NSW Government, 2021, Offences and penalties.
[2] Victorian Government, 2021, Drink-driving penalties.
[3] Queensland Government, 2021, Being charged with drink driving.
[4] Western Australia Police Force, 2021, Drink and Drug Driving.
[5] Legal Services Commission of South Australia, 2021, Drink Driving and the Law.
[6] gotocourt.com.au, 2021, Penalties for Drink Driving in Tasmania.
[7] ACT Government, 2021, Drink and drunk driving laws for the ACT.
[8] Northern Territory Government, 2021, Drink driving penalties.
[9] gotocourt.com.au, 2021, Penalty Units.
[10] HealthEngine, 2011, Blood Alcohol Concentration Calculator.
[11] Centre for Road Safety, 2014, Getting back to zero.
[12] Queensland Government, 2021, Road safety statistics.
[13] Centre for Road Safety, 2018, Alcohol and driving.
[14] Transport Accident Commission, 2021, Drink driving statistics.
[15] Road Safety Commission, 2021, Drink driving.
[16] Government of South Australia, 2020, Alcohol and Drugs.
[17] Road Safety Advisory Council, 2021, Young Drivers – Alcohol.
[18] Road Safety NT, 2021, Drink driving.