Drink driving continues to be one of Victoria’s deadliest social problems, with approximately a quarter of all fatal crashes involving a driver or rider with an illegal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).
While most will agree that driving with a BAC just slightly over the limit is dangerous, some continue to take the risk, in turn placing themselves, their passengers, and others sharing the road, in danger. The TAC’s drink driving campaigns are directed at low-level alcohol influenced drivers. TAC’s aim is to reduce the number of road deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers with BAC levels at, or just over, the legal limit.
Most important, these campaigns target low levels of intoxication, before drinkers graduate to higher risk levels of alcohol consumption.
What is BAC?
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in the body. BAC is measured in grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.05. This means that a driver’s body must contain less than 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
A driver’s BAC is measured by a simple breath test procedure.
Most people find it difficult to gauge their own blood alcohol level, as there are so many factors to consider:
- The amount of alcohol consumed
- The period of time over which alcohol is consumed
- Your body mass
- Whether you have eaten
- Your fitness level
- The health of your liver
Because every person’s metabolism is different, some people need to drink less than the standard hourly recommendation to maintain a BAC level below the legal limit.
How does alcohol affect driving performance?
Driving is a very complex task, which requires complex decision-making and total concentration. Alcohol affects a driver’s ability to be totally in control of his or her actions at:
- 0.02 to 0.05 BAC – the ability to see or locate moving lights correctly is diminished, as is the ability to judge distances. The tendency to take risks is increased, and the ability to respond to several stimuli is decreased.
- 0.05 to 0.08 BAC – the ability to judge distances is reduced, sensitivity to red lights is impaired, reactions are slower, and concentration span is shorter. At 0.08 BAC, drivers are five times more likely to have an accident than before they started drinking.
- 0.08 to 0.12 BAC – euphoria sets in, overestimation of one’s abilities leads to reckless driving, peripheral vision is impaired (resulting in accidents due to hitting vehicles in passing), and perception of obstacles is impaired. Drivers are up to 10 times more likely to have an accident.
What is the current law with relation to drink driving?
- By law, probationary drivers (P-platers) must maintain a zero BAC level (their BAC must equal zero). New alcohol laws affecting P-platers are expected to be introduced in January 2007.
- Drivers of heavy trucks, buses, trains and trams must maintain a zero BAC level while on the road throughout most of Australia.
- Motorcyclists, in their first year of riding, must also maintain a zero BAC while on the road.
Penalties for drink driving offences include disqualification from driving for a specified period, fines, and imprisonment.
In Victoria, a BAC reading of 0.15 or higher results in suspension of the driver’s licence on the spot, until the case is heard in court.
Since 13 May 2002, Victorian courts can order anyone committing a repeat drink driver offence (or driving with a BAC reading of more than 0.15) to have an alcohol interlock device fitted to their car, motorbike or truck ignition.