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Criminal Law Blog NSW

Most drivers try to do the right thing and comply with drink driving laws.

Can you rely on the drink driving guidelines published on government websites to avoid being over the prescribed concentration of alcohol levels? It seems that the answer is NO.

Most drivers try to do the right thing and comply with drink driving laws. Not only is it important for their safety; in some cases losing their licence will mean losing their livelihood.

Unfortunately, many drivers follow the guidelines recommended by the government for the number of drinks a person can consume and stay under the legal limit, only to find themselves over the legal limit when tested. How does this happen?

What are the guidelines?

The most commonly used guideline recommends the following to stay under the legal driving limit of 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC):

  • For men: 2 standard drinks in the first hour, and one standard drink per hour thereafter.
  • For women: 1 standard drink in the first hour, and one standard drink per hour thereafter.

This guideline is published on the NSW Department of Health, Western Australian Police force, Northern Territory Government, Western Australian Road Safety Commission and the Victoria Transport Accident Commission’s websites.
 

What is the problem?

People tend to trust government publications and rely on the guideline to determine whether they are safe to drive. The problem is that this recommendation does not work for everyone. The guideline is based on the average person’s metabolism. It is also not easy to determine what a “standard” drink is. How many standard drinks does a beverage contain?

Although the government publications acknowledge the limitations of the guideline, they still encourage people to use the guideline as a “rule of thumb”.  It is thus very easy to be led astray by these confusing guidelines.
 

What does the Court say?

The Court is not bound by the government published guidelines. Following the guidelines is not a defense to drink driving.  When it comes to sentencing, you would think that the Court would have sympathy if you followed the guidelines and still ended up with a BAC exceeding the legal limit.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many magistrates give very little weigh to you following the guidelines. Some even say that you should know that you couldn’t rely on the guidelines!

It seems that the only “rule of thumb” to stay safe and guarantee that you will not be caught drink driving, is to not drive at all until you are sure the alcohol has left your system.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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