Drink driving in Australia

In Australia, drink driving is the main behavioural factor in 30% of total road deaths (Australian Transport Council 2011, p25).

Drink driving is a contributing factor to a similar proportion of Queensland’s road crash fatalities*

Random breath testing (RBT) was introduced into Queensland in 1988 and since then considerable progress has been made in reducing the number of drink-driving related crashes through the use of RBT and publicity campaigns.

While the community now generally acknowledges that drink driving is socially unacceptable behaviour, the fact that alcohol still contributes to such a large percentage of road crash fatalities is a concern. More work still needs to be done through initiatives targeted at those most likely to offend – particularly on a repeated basis.


Research shows that a high proportion of recidivist drink drivers have clinical alcohol dependence problems (Australian Transport Council 2008, p41). RACQ members agree that a focus on rehabilitating offenders is needed to help reduce re-offending.

Advice to motorists:

As a general guide, to stay below the open licence limit of 0.05% BAC:
  • Males can have a maximum of two standard drinks in the first hour, and one standard drink each hour after that;
  • Females can have a maximum of one standard drink in the first hour, and one standard drink each hour after that.
This is a guide only because everyone is different.  The best approach is to avoid alcohol if you will be driving.

Standard Alcoholic Drink Chart

Drink driving

Enjoying an alcoholic beverage has long been a Queensland past time, particularly in the warmer months. Whether it's at a BBQ or just a few casual drinks over lunch, a majority of Queenslanders love a social drink. But do you know how much is too much before you get behind the wheel? In this episode of RACQ TV we take a closer look at low range drink driving and how that one extra drink could leave you with a suspended licence and a new-found appreciation for the bus timetable.

    1. Implement a level of enforcement and education such that drivers perceive a real risk of detection should they exceed the legal maximum blood alcohol content (BAC), e.g., increasing the allocation of police resources during times and at locations associated with high alcohol consumption.
    2. Further enhance community education about alcohol intake and BAC and promote alternatives to drinking and driving, e.g., understanding what a standard drink is and planning to drink at venues serviced by other transport options and/or designated driver programs.
    3. Improve alternative transport options in rural and remote communities, e.g., courtesy buses and promote designated driver programs.
    4. Implement anti-drink driving initiatives directed towards repeat offenders, e.g., best practice rehabilitation programs with assessment prior to re-licensing.
    5. Encourage the hospitality industry to become more responsible for their patrons, e.g., publicans serving alcohol responsibly and not breaking liquor licensing laws by serving patrons alcohol to the point of intoxication, and providing and promoting designated driver schemes and complimentary/alternative transport services to help reduce the incidence of drink driving and drink walking in conjunction with transport providers, local governments, health and community agencies.
    6. Use road-based measures in the vicinity of licensed premises to reduce the incidence of crashes involving intoxicated pedestrians, e.g., roadside barriers and improved lighting.
    7. Encourage vehicle manufacturers to develop interlock/alcolock technologies further.
  • Australian Transport Council 2011, National Road Safety Strategy2011-2020, Australian Transport Council, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

    Australian Transport Council 2008, National Road Safety Action Plan 2009 and 2010, Australian Transport Council, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

    Data Analysis Unit 2009, Personal Correspondence to RACQ, 03/06/09, Queensland Transport, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.