In 2019 61 people were killed and 285 seriously injured in alcohol related crashes on NSW roads. Drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs before driving puts you at a greater risk of killing yourself, your family, your friends, or other innocent people.
Alcohol and drugs significantly affect your driving skills and increase your crash risk. As a driver, you need to be alert and able to concentrate on what you are doing so that you can react to whatever is happening around you on the road.
It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including some over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Read the label on drugs and other products to check that they do not contain alcohol (also known as ethanol) or contain a warning about possible effects on your driving ability.
- Leave your car at home.
- Plan ahead and arrange alternative transport.
- Share a taxi with friends.
- Catch public transport.
- Stay overnight at a friend’s place.
- Get a lift with a driver who hasn’t been drinking.
- Arrange for a friend or relative to give you a lift.
NSW has three blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits: zero, under 0.02 and under 0.05. The limit that applies to you depends on the category of your licence and the type of vehicle you are driving.
Zero BAC applies to all:
- Learner drivers or riders
- Provisional 1 drivers or riders
- Provisional 2 drivers or riders
- Visiting drivers or riders holding an overseas or interstate learner, provisional or equivalent licence
- Learner, P1 and P2 drivers and riders are developing their driving skills. They have a zero alcohol limit because they are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than experienced drivers.
Under 0.02 applies to:
- Drivers of vehicles of "gross vehicle mass" greater than 13.9 tonnes
- Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods
- Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers
Under 0.05 applies to:
- ALL other licences (including overseas and interstate licence holders) not subject to a 0.02 or zero limit
- Under 0.05 is the legal limit for most drivers
Mobile Drug Testing (MDT) detects the presence of four common illegal drugs: ecstasy, cannabis, cocaine, and methamphetamine (including speed and ice). MDT can be conducted at roadside operations along with random breath testing (RBT), or by NSW Police in vehicles patrolling our roads.
Drink driving is considered as a serious offence and as of March 2019 if you are caught drink driving over the legal limit in NSW, even if it is a first-time or low-range offence, police may suspend your license immediately.
Penalties for Drug Driving
Drug driving is a serious offence. It is also an offence if you refuse to take a drug test. Penalties can include loss of licence, fines, and prison terms. As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, changes came into effect on 20 May 2019 to simplify and improve the certainty of penalties for first-time offences for driving with the presence of an illegal drug, which are typically detected through MDT.
If your roadside positive result is confirmed by the laboratory and it is a first-time offence, you may receive a fine and your licence will subsequently be suspended for three months. If it is a second or subsequent offence you will need to go to court and may receive a licence disqualification and fine.
If you are found guilty of driving under the influence, even higher penalties apply.