Alcohol and road safety

Alcohol is a major factor in road deaths in Victoria. Each year about one quarter of drivers killed in road crashes had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .05 or greater.

At a BAC of .05, your risk of being involved in a road crash is about double compared with a BAC of zero.

On this page you will learn that you need time to recover from drinking alcohol and that it affects people differently. There are also tips for keeping your BAC below .05.

Changes to drink-driving penalties

The Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program has expanded with alcohol interlocks now mandatory for more drink-driving offences. From 1 October 2014 more driver licence and learner permit cancellations will be issued for a broader range of drink-driving blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.

Visit Changes to the alcohol interlock program or download the Getting your licence back [PDF 361kb] brochure for more information.

Combined drink and drug-driving penalties

From 1 August 2015 significant penalties apply if drivers on Victorian roads are caught with both illegal blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) levels and illicit drugs in their system. Visit Combined drink and drug-driving offences and penalties for more information.

Things that don't reduce your BAC

Cold showers, exercise, black coffee, fresh air, or vomiting will not reduce your blood alcohol content.

If you have been drinking, you have to allow time for the alcohol in your bloodstream to reduce before you drive.

Cold showers, exercise, black coffee, fresh air, or vomiting do not help.

The more you drink, the more time you must allow. For example, if you drink a lot at night, you may still have a BAC of .05 or more the following morning.

Once consumed, only time reduces the alcohol in your blood.

Two people who drink the same amount can register quite different BACs. This is due to factors such as:

  • a smaller person will have a higher BAC than a larger person
  • people with a lot of body fat tend to have a higher BAC
  • a woman will almost always have a higher BAC than a man of similar size who drinks the same amount.

There is no set number of drinks to stay under .05 BAC. In fact one person drinking a set number of drinks can reach different BAC results on different occasions.

Coin operated and commercially available breath testing units provide a guide to your BAC but should not be relied on because they can be inaccurate. None can be used as evidence in case of a drink driving charge.

To help keep your BAC down, try the following:

  • Don’t drink alcohol if you are planning to drive.
  • Start with a soft drink or water.
  • Learn about standard drinks and how long it takes for alcohol to leave your body.
  • Alternate between alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Choose low alcohol drinks over high alcohol drinks.
  • Avoid mixed drinks.
  • Avoid drinking in ‘shouts’.
  • Don’t let people top up your glass.
  • Drink slowly and keep track of how much you drink.
  • Set time and dollar limits on your drinking.

Do not drink alcohol when you are taking other drugs. Even small amounts of alcohol in combination with drugs or medicines can reduce your ability to drive.

This applies to medicines prescribed by your doctor, bought in a supermarket or pharmacy, or illicit drugs such as cannabis and speed.

If you are going to drink, it’s safer not to drive at all. You can avoid driving by planning ahead.

  • Designate a non-drinking driver.
  • Hire a taxi.
  • Use public transport.
  • Stay the night (make sure you are not still over the limit in the morning).
  • Arrange for someone to pick you up.
  • Only accept a lift if you are certain the driver has not been drinking or using other drugs.

You must not drink alcohol while:

  • driving a motor vehicle
  • sitting beside a person who is learning to drive.

Failure to comply may result in a fine of up to ten penalty units, or if the matter is dealt with by an infringement notice, the penalty is two penalty units.

This applies even if you are under the legal limit.

For more information visit the drink-driving penalties page.

An alcohol interlock stops you from starting your vehicle if you have been drinking. You need to blow into the interlock every time you start your vehicle and at different times during the trip.

In Victoria, alcohol interlocks are fitted to vehicles of drivers who have been convicted of some drink driving offences.

For more information about alcohol interlocks visit our drink-driving offences page.

Information for participants on the Victorian Alcohol Interlock Program

Guidelines and rules for participants on the program differ depending on:

  • when the drink-driving offence was committed (before, on or after 1 October 2014)
  • whether it was a first offence
  • the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) reading (BAC less than 0.1/BAC of 0.1 or more)

To find out more about what each type of participant is required to do to complete the Program, visit Alcohol Interlock Program participant guidelines

Alcohol-related crashes remain one of the leading causes of death on Victorian roads, with a third of Victorian drivers killed between 2008 and 2011 having alcohol in their systems. 

Therefore, VicRoads commissioned the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) to undertake the study “The Effect of Sanctions on Drink-Drivers in Victoria”. 

The study examined the effects of a range of drink-driving measures on a large sample of Victorian drink-drivers by examining whether the measures influenced crashes and re-offending after they were introduced.

There were several strong findings, including:
  • Cancelling drink-drivers’ licences had a significant effect on reducing offending and crashes, both while banned from driving and after being relicensed. 
  • Alcohol interlocks were effective in reducing offending while fitted, both for first-time drink-drivers with a high BAC reading and for repeat offenders. 
  • Decreasing the BAC level at which police can impose immediate licence suspension from 0.15 BAC to 0.10 led to a reduction in repeat drink-driving offences and fewer crashes.

More information about the study can be found here

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