As the name suggests drink driving is when you drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol seriously impairs your ability to react quickly, make good judgments, and drive as well as you might normally.

Driving while over the alcohol limit is illegal, and you will be fined, gain demerit points, and potentially even lose your license if you’re caught. It also puts you, your passengers, other people on the roads and pedestrians at risk – of injury or even death.

People might drink and drive for a number of reasons including:

  • they aren’t aware they’re drunk
  • they feel more confident after drinking and think they are capable of driving, even though they’re really not
  • people think or hope they won’t get caught
  • after drinking too much they’re unable to make safe, responsible decisions and deal with complex problems.

What are the limits?

The limits vary depending on your state and the kind of license you have. This varies anywhere between a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of zero and 0.05g/100mL. A BAC of 0.05 means that there is 0.05g of alcohol in every 100ml of blood. For more information about the rules in your state, check out the relevant link on the bottom of the page.

Alcohol affects people differently

Two people who drink the same amount can register quite different blood alcohol concentrations.

How you are affected by alcohol depends on a lot of different factors, including:

  • Body size – if you’re a smaller person you will have a higher blood alcohol concentration than a larger person.
  • Body fat people with a lot of body fat tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration.
  • Gender – a female will almost always have a higher blood alcohol concentration than a male who drinks the same amount. That means keeping up with the boys often isn’t a great idea.

How do you know how much you can drink?

Since everyone is affected by alcohol differently, there is no set number of drinks to stay under the limit. Even if you drink a set amount on two separate occasions, you might get different blood alcohol concentration readings.

As a guide coin operated breath testers are available in some venues, so if you want an idea of how much you can drink and still be under the limit, you could test yourself after different numbers of drinks. Keep in mind that you might still get a different reading another time after drinking the same number of drinks and that these machines can be inaccurate.

Another thing to be aware of is that some medications, mouthwashes and foods may contain alcohol, so it’s a good idea to check labels.

Tips for controlling your drinking

There are a number of things you can do to keep your drinking under control, including the following:

  • Set limits for yourself and stick to them. You might do this by only bringing a certain amount of money with you and limiting yourself to that.
  • Start with a non-alcoholic drink.
  • Try having a ‘spacer’ – alternating non-alcoholic drinks (including lots of water) with alcoholic drinks.
  • Drink slowly. Take sips not gulps.
  • Try a low alcohol alternative to a pre-mixed drink.
  • Only have one type of drink.
  • Eat before or while you are drinking, avoid salty snacks, they make you thirsty.
  • Avoid rounds or ‘shouts’.
  • Have one drink at a time, so you can keep track.
  • Avoid sculling competitions, and drinking games.
  • Stay busy – don’t just sit and drink.
  • Be assertive – don’t be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to.

Don’t combine alcohol with other drugs or medicines

Mixing different alcoholic drinks and drugs may increase the speed in which you become drunk and may mean you take more risks. The effect it has depends on the drugs and is unpredictable.

Even small amounts of alcohol consumed in combination with other drugs or medications can reduce your ability to drive.

What are the penalties?

Penalties for drink driving vary from state to state, and range from losing points on you license and receiving a fine to losing your license and going to jail, depending on how much over the limit you are.

For more info, check out the rules and regulations in your state on the bottom of the page.

How will the police test you?

Police regularly conduct random breath test on the roads, and this can be at any time of the day, on any day of the week.

Testing can be done in a variety of ways, ranging from breath tests on the roadside to blood and urine tests if further testing is required.

Getting home

Going out and drinking as a young person is not at all uncommon, but it’s important that if you are drinking you do so in a responsible way so that it can be safe and fun. It’s a good idea to plan alternative transport for nights where you know you might be drinking. This might include:

  • public transport – preferably with a group and travelling near the guard’s compartment marked with a light
  • a lift with a friend who’s not drinking
  • a lift from a parent
  • a taxi.

Another good idea is to organize to take turns with friends to be the designated driver for the night.

If you have a friend who you suspect is over the limit and is planning to drive, organize alternative transport for them to get home and encourage them to pick their car up the next day.

Alternatively, you might decide to stay at a friend’s place rather than drive home if you’ve drunk too much. Remember that if you’ve drunk a lot of alcohol it may still be in your system the next day – so the next morning you may still be over the limit.

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