Centre for Road Safety

Drink driving is a serious offence. It is also an offence if you refuse to take a breath test.

Depending on the offence, if you are caught drink driving NSW Police may suspend your licence immediately. If you are a repeat, high-risk drink driver, police may also confiscate your number plates or impound your vehicle.

If convicted in court, significant penalties apply, including fines and even prison terms. You will be disqualified from driving and may also be ordered to install an alcohol interlock.

Further information about offences and penalties for different drink-driving offences, and the Alcohol Interlock Program can be found on the Roads and Maritime Services website.

New alcohol interlock laws

An interlock is an electronic breath testing device connected to the ignition of a vehicle. It prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected. The interlock also includes a camera and takes a photograph of the person providing the breath sample to reduce the risk of a driver circumventing the program.

All drivers convicted of high-range, repeat and other serious drink-driving offences in NSW committed on or after 1 February 2015 are required to have an interlock installed.

As part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, the NSW Government has expanded the interlock program so that it also applies to drivers convicted of all middle-range drink driving and driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol offences committed on or after Monday 3 December 2018.

For all offences that require a mandatory interlock, the court orders offenders to complete:

  • A licence disqualification period, and
  • A period of participation in the interlock program (minimum 12 months).

The length of the licence disqualification and interlock period vary depending on the type of offence. Longer periods apply for the most serious offences.

The interlock program aims to actively prevent drink driving on NSW roads, and to reduce alcohol related crashes.

A survey of the NSW community, completed to inform the development of the Road Safety Plan 2021, found 84 per cent felt alcohol interlocks for drink-driving offenders were important for road safety.

The Roads and Maritime Services website has more details about the Alcohol Interlock Program, including information for offenders, as well as medical and legal professionals.

Vehicle sanctions for high risk drink drivers

Vehicle sanctions, such as impounding a driver’s vehicle, are designed to improve road safety by removing high-risk drivers from the roads immediately to prevent re-offending.

In NSW, police can confiscate number plates at the roadside or impound the vehicle if they detect a driver committing certain high-risk offences. This includes ‘hoon’ offences, such as street racing, engaging in a police pursuit or speeding by more than 45km/h over the limit.

From Monday 3 December 2018, as part of the Road Safety Plan 2021, the vehicle sanctions scheme also applies to repeat, high-risk drink drivers. Vehicle sanctions typically apply for three months.

More information on the vehicle sanctions scheme is available on the Roads and Maritime Services website.