Jun 30 2011

Drink Driving Statistics in Australia

Drink Driving in Australia

When are you classified as Drunk?

In Australia you are drunk when you have 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

In the UK you are drunk when you have 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

So LEGALLY, even if the numbers are the same, there will be many more “legally” drunk drivers in Australia.  Probably many of them British, not realising that the law is different, and that you get drunk faster in Australia, even if you don’t think you are  😉

I have always wondered about the apparent difference between official drink driving statistics and breath test results, as it seems to show a marked in-balance.

My recent findings show that 90% of all drink driving accidents occur in rural areas, hence only 10% in city areas.  Very rarely travelling in rural areas, means that I am at a low risk of meeting a drunk driver in an accident situation.


During the 12 months ended December 2011 there were 1,292 deaths on Australian roads from ALL causes.
This is 4.4% lower than the year ended Dec 2010.
The rate of annual deaths is now 5.7 per 100,000 population presently stands at 5.7. This is a 5.8% decrease from the previous year.
– (Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2011).
18-20% of all fatal accidents in NSW include drink driving as a factor


A report issued in October 2009 stated annual figures for Drink Driving in Australia of:

  • 12,399,027 Breath Tests carried out in the last year
  • 111,045 people charged with drink driving in that year

This shows that almost 9 in every 1,000 drivers breath tested, during 2009 were over the Australian drink driving limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, commonly known as 0.05. (maybe about 4 per 1,000 over 0.08)

This differs to the UK limit of  80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which would be referred to as 0.08 in Australia.  However, prosecution guidelines followed by the UK police services mean that in practice drivers are not normally prosecuted until they reach 90 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
Well over half of the Australian drivers convicted of Drink Driving, would NOT be convicted in the UK, with many being classed as Sober, not Drunk.

Note the table below which shows two sets of figures, with the numbers quoted as being over 0.08 being a closer comparison to the UK figures.

Figures shown on TV in 2011 quoted the following numbers of those charged with drink driving in Australia, per State:

Total over 0.05 Approx over 0.08 State
26,918 14,805 NSW
16,946 9,320 VIC
5,946 3,270 TAS
10,252 5,639 SA
19,339 10,636 WA
32,532 17,893 QLD
111,933 61,563 Total

Australia – Easter 2009


Queensland State Traffic Support Branch Superintendent Col Campbell said out of 52,128 random breath tests, 225 people were caught drink-driving in the first 48 hours of the Easter break.
That works out at one drink driver out of every 231 tested, or 4.3 per 1,000 (maybe about 2 per 1,000 over 0.08).

England and Wales

In 2010, over 773,000 breath tests were carried out, with about 11% (83,000+) of those tested either failing or refusing the test.  www.rospa.com

In 2004, there were 86,597 drink driving convictions (over 0.09) from 578,000 breath tests.  This works out at one conviction per 6 breath tests.

Countries in Europe with a Drink Driving limit of 0.05 (same as Australia)

Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Serbia/Montenegro, Croatia, Latvia, Macedonia, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, North Cyprus.  Scotland and Wales are considering changing to 0.05.

Countries in Europe with a Drink Driving limit of 0.08 (same as the UK)

UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Switzerland, (South Cyprus 0.09)



The following is for New South Wales ONLY.


  • 3,400,000 random breath tests were conducted in NSW
  • 90% of all drink driving accidents occur in rural areas
  • 90% of drink drivers involved in fatal accidents are male
  • 33% of all drink drivers involved in fatal accidents are aged between 17-24
  • 30% of all drink driving fatalities occur between 9pm – 3am, Thurs, Fri & Sat nights
  • 27% of all fatal crashes in rural areas involve drink drivers
  • 25% of all drink drivers in fatal crashes are aged between 30-39
  • 18-20% of all fatal accidents in NSW include drink driving as a factor
For Books with Free Delivery to Australia: BookDepository UK and USA


  1. Ed

    @Amrik Singh
    Without knowledge of your exact reading it is very hard to determine a likely penalty. Your traffic record should help your case.
    See this page onmid range drink driving for penalties the court can impose.

  2. Amrik Singh

    I am recently caught for drink driving with mid range offence.
    I am 7 years driving in NSW withut any ofence.

    What could be my penalties? shall I be disqualified from driving ? Can I get section 10?

    This is first offence which I have accepted to Police Oficer. Shall I still need a lawyer?

    Please et me know in detail.

    A. Singh

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