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Drink Driving & Drug Offences SA

Drink driving is a common term used to cover the two offences which relate to drinking and driving: Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and exceeding the Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol (PCA).

Throughout Australia, it is an offence to drive or attempt to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and another drug. Someone who is driving while affected can be convicted of an offence even though their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than the limit specified in the relevant state or territory. Driving Under the Influence is the legal name for this offence under the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA).

If the police suspect that a driver's skills are impaired by drugs, the driver can be taken to court and be subject to the same penalties given for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, who injure or kill another person while driving a motor vehicle, may be charged with an additional criminal offence (e.g. culpable driving) and sentenced to a term in prison.

The DUI offence also applies to people on skateboards and rollerblades, cyclists, riders of animals and drivers of vehicles drawn by animals; offenders are likely to be fined.

A person can be charged with Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol if their BAC is equal to or over the following levels:

  • Licence holders . . . . 0.05%
  • Boat operators and crew . . . . 0.05%
  • Drivers of buses, taxis, heavy vehicles and vehicles carrying dangerous goods . . . . 0.00%
  • Learner/probationary drivers . . . . 0.00%
  • Unlicensed drivers . . . . 0.00%

To be charged with PCA, it is not necessary to show that the driver is affected by alcohol, merely that they are over the legal limit.

It is against the law for learner/probationary drivers to drive with any alcohol in their body as it is a breach of their learner/probationary conditions. Drink driving provisions also apply to someone acting as a qualified passenger for a learner driver.

A qualified passenger is a person who occupies a seat next to a learner driver and is the holder of a driver's licence for that type of vehicle. They can be required to undergo a breath analysis or provide a blood sample in the same way as if they were actually driving the vehicle.

Any driver/rider can be required to submit to an alcotest (a breath screening test which indicates the approximate level of alcohol in the blood) by the police if:

  • they commit certain driving offences
  • they are involved in a motor vehicle accident
  • their driving indicates an inability to drive
  • they approach a Random Breath Testing station
  • they are stopped for mobile Random Breath Testing

Under the Road Traffic Act it is an offence to refuse to submit to an alcotest. If the result of the alcotest is positive, the police can then require the driver to undergo a breathalyser test. (A breathalyser analyses the breath and indicates the precise level of alcohol in the blood. It is used to obtain a more precise reading which can be used as legal evidence in court.)

If a breathalyser test is administered to a driver within 2 hours of driving, that reading will be accepted by a court as their BAC. Directly after the breathalyser test, police will issue the driver with a printed sheet advising them of the legal implications of the test result and their right to a blood test.

If a driver wants to challenge the accuracy of the breathalyser reading, they need to request a 'blood kit' at the time of testing, and promptly make their own way to a doctor to have their blood tested (at the driver's own expense).

Outside the metropolitan area, the blood tests can be done by a registered nurse or a doctor; if it is unlikely that the driver will get to either within 2 hours, they will need to ask the police to take them there.

Within 8 hours of an accident, anyone (who appears to be over the age of 14) who is treated at a prescribed hospital will be requested to supply a sample of their blood for analysis. It is an offence to refuse this blood test.

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