Consuming alcohol while driving – is it illegal?


An interesting segment on Channel 7’s Sunrise this morning on “The road rules you didn’t know existed”. These included the little known rule that you must remove your keys from the car and lock all doors and windows if you’re more than 3 metres from the car. You can also be fined for using your car horn inappropriately.

Well, here’s another road rule you may not know. While we all know that you can’t drive a vehicle while over the legal limit, in most states and territories of Australia it’s also illegal for a driver to drink alcohol in a car.

In NSW, for instance, if you are caught sipping a beer while behind the wheel (even if you’re under 0.05% blood alcohol level) you will receive a fine of over $300 and lose three demerit points. If you challenge the case in court the fine can climb to over $2000.

What about passengers? Can they drink alcohol while their mate drives? Generally speaking, passengers in a vehicle can drink alcohol. The exception to this is when a passenger is supervising a learner driver. In this case, the supervising passenger must be below the legal blood alcohol limit and not be consuming any alcohol. If they do, they risk similar fines as a driver would.

But you’d be okay to have a drink of alcohol in your car, for example, while watching a local football match or taking cover from a passing shower at a picnic? Not necessarily. In Victoria, for example, if you’re behind the wheel and not in the passenger seat, you can be deemed to be in charge of the vehicle and therefore can be fined for consuming intoxicating liquor.

Remember, if you are interested in finding out more it’s important to check the rules in your state or territory (or more correctly the state or territory you will driving in) as they can differ. For example, in South Australia, you can consume alcohol while driving, as long as you stay below the legal limit. While in Tasmania, drivers and passengers aren’t allowed to consume alcohol in a moving vehicle.

Unsure of the rules in your state or territory? Dare we say it, it’s better to play it safe and not drink alcohol in a car at all.

If you’d like to watch the Sunrise segment on the strange and possibly unknown road rules, go to their website.

It’s best to leave the consumption of alcohol to pubs, restaurants, friend’s places and home, and not consume alcohol while driving, even if you do stay under the legal limit.

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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