Roadside alcohol testing – everything you need to know

Roadside alcohol testing has been a road safety success story. Credit Denys Nevozhai

Most people know that you can be caught by roadside alcohol testing if you exceed your blood alcohol limit. However, did you know that in most states and territories, it’s illegal to drink alcohol while driving, in some states and territories it’s illegal for passengers to drink alcohol while a car is moving, and it can even be illegal for drivers and passengers to drink alcohol in a parked car?

The laws on alcohol and cars in Australia is laid out in an excellent series of articles on Cars Guide. The articles provide all the information most people need to know about alcohol and driving, as well as being a passenger.

Roadside alcohol testing in Australia

The articles are introduced with a recap of what has been a road safety success story in Australia. It’s been around 40 years since random breath testing was introduced and since that time the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers has dropped significantly.

However, people are still being caught driving over the legal limit. And people are still dying due to drunk drivers.

In Australia, most drivers need to stay under the 0.05 blood alcohol concentration to be considered safe to drive and safe to pass alcohol testing. However, there are exceptions and the laws can vary from state to state, and territory to territory.

The exceptions are mainly for learner and provisional drivers, as well as drivers of vehicles such as trucks, buses and taxis. In most states and territories these drivers must maintain a 0.00 blood alcohol concentration.

Again, the laws and exact details do vary depending on where you live. Check the article for details and consult your state or territory authority for definitive information.

Can you drink alcohol while driving?

According to Cars Guide, it is illegal to drink alcohol while driving in NSW, Tasmania, Queensland, the ACT, WA and Victoria. Cars Guide could not find legislation explicitly forbidding the practice in SA or the NT, but of course the blood alcohol limits still apply.

Can you drink alcohol while a passenger?

Again, the laws vary depending on where you live.

In Tasmania, the ACT, Queensland and WA, it is illegal for anyone to drink alcohol in a moving car and this includes the passengers. In NSW, SA and Victoria, Cars Guide could find no legislation to prohibits passengers from drinking, as long as the driver maintains full control of the vehicle and remains under their blood alcohol limit.

Can you drink alcohol in a parked car?

This, in particular, may surprise people, because in some cases sitting in a car and drinking alcohol is prohibited for drivers and passengers. WA and Queensland in particular are states where you can be caught. It’s also worth pointing out that you can be convicted if you sleep in the car after a big session on the booze. This includes in Tasmania, the ACT, Queensland and WA.

The drinking in a parked car laws can be particularly confusing because there can be road rules at play as well as local council laws. For example, many councils have alcohol-free zones and if you are parked in one of these zones and you drink alcohol in your car you are liable to be fined.


Roadside alcohol testing has been a road safety success story. Credit Denys Nevozhai

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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