How Much Alcohol Can You Drink Before Driving?

It’s time to party and you’re excited! But you have to be smart or the night could end in tragedy.

Roughly 30% of all fatal crashes in Australia involve drink driving. You could end up never making it home if you get behind the wheel of a car after you’ve been drinking.

What’s worse, you might bear someone else’s death on your conscience for the rest of your life.

What’s the best way to have a great and safe night? Check it out!

The Blood Alcohol Limits in Australia

Police and courts need something measurable to charge people with drunk driving. They do this by measuring your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) with an instrument called a breathalyzer. Police sometimes set up random roadblocks to check drivers or ask them to submit to an exam if they believe they are drunk driving.

No driver in Australia is allowed to have more than 0.05% BAC. This means that there is no more than 0.05g of alcohol for every 100 ml of blood in the body.

Furthermore, certain types of drivers are even more restricted. The following drivers are subject to a lower BAC of only 0.02%.

  • Drivers hauling people (taxis, bus drivers, etc.)
  • Drivers hauling dangerous or toxic goods
  • Drivers of “big rigs” weighing more than 13.9 tonnes

Some types of drivers aren’t even allowed up to 0.02% They must keep a zero BAC or face the consequences. These include:

  • Learner drivers
  • Provisional 1 and Provisional 2 drivers
  • International drivers that hold an equivalent licence

If you’re not sure which limit applies to you, find out before you drive. Don’t just assume you’ll be fine as long as you stand under 0.05%. You can’t use ignorance as a valid defence.

How Many Drinks Does It Take?

Knowing the legal limits is only one piece of the puzzle — and, honestly, it’s the easy piece. The hard part is knowing how much alcohol you can drink before your BAC exceeds the limit.

Factors That Affect BAC

BAC is a physical measure of how much alcohol is present in your blood. With that in mind, it might seem simple to keep track of the measure.

However, every individual’s body is different. There are many factors that affect the absorption rate of alcohol and thus affect the BAC.

Let’s look at them here.

Body Mass

Larger people have more blood. Thus, it requires more alcohol to bring the blood to the same concentration.


Women have a higher fat to lean muscle ratio. These tissues process alcohol differently and cause women to reach the BAC limit faster than men.

Liver Function

A healthy liver will filter the alcohol from your bloodstream faster than an unhealthy one.


If you regularly drink alcohol, your body may process it more efficiently than someone who only drinks occasionally.


Eating a meal with your drink will slow the absorption rate of alcohol. Make no mistake, though. Eating food can’t keep you from getting drunk.

State of Mind

Even feeling stressed, sick, or tired has an impact. Your BAC will rise faster when you’re not in the best state of mind.

Drink Size

There is an oft-quoted rule of thumb that many people use to track their alcohol consumption. In general, an individual can have two standard drinks in the first hour and one standard drink per hour thereafter and keep their BAC under the legal limit.

However, as you might imagine from the quick discussion we just had, this is a very rough way to estimate BAC. Actual individual BAC might not be even close to what you’re estimating.

Plus, how do you measure drink size? There is a standard drink size, but not every drink you buy will come in the standard size. Wine glasses alone range in size from 100 ml to upwards of 280ml. Premixed drinks often come in weird sizes, though all packaging is supposed to list how many standard drinks are in the container.

Alcohol Concentration

Finally, don’t forget that not all alcohol is equal. Some drinks contain far more alcohol than others. For example, a standard beer contains only about 5% alcohol. Compare that to the 40% concentration commonly found in spirits like whiskey or vodka.

You can blast through quite a few beers before you would get the same amount of alcohol as there can be in one mixed drink.

Safe to Drive?

According to Riviere Law, there really is no safe level of drinking and driving. Considering all the factors we’ve just discussed, it’s easy to see why. Knowing how to keep your consumption under the legal limit is nearly impossible.

Furthermore, alcohol at any level can impact your reaction time and judgement when driving, which can lead to an accident. Stay safe and choose someone else to drive after you’ve indulged.


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