Centre for Road Safety

Alcohol and other drugs can reduce your ability to drive safely.

Danger for drivers

Alcohol

Alcohol is a mood changing legal drug that slows down your central nervous system and impacts your driving ability. In 2017, 55 people were killed, and 425 seriously injured, in alcohol related crashes on NSW roads. 

Alcohol and driving shows how it affects your skills, mood and behaviour. Just a few drinks increases your blood alcohol concentration and as that rises, so does your risk of being in a crash.

Blood alcohol limits

NSW has three blood alcohol limits for drivers: zero, under 0.02 and under 0.05. The limit that applies to you depends on your licence and the type of vehicle you are driving.

Sobering up

Getting back to zero explains how long it can take to get alcohol out of your system. If you have had a lot to drink, you may be over the limit for much of the next day and should not drive.

Random breath testing

Since the introduction of random breath testing in 1982, deaths from alcohol related crashes on NSW roads have been greatly reduced. In 1980, 389 people were killed in alcohol related crashes in NSW, 30 per cent of the road toll. In 2017, that figure dropped to 55 fatalities, about 14 per cent of the road toll.

Drugs and driving

It is dangerous for drivers and riders to take stimulants and other illegal drugs. Cannabis, cocaine and similar drugs affect your driving skills and concentration, even though you may think you are driving well.

Prescription drugs and over the counter medicines can also reduce your ability to drive safely. They can affect your eyesight, concentration, mood, coordination and cause slower reaction times. Mixing one drug with another, or mixing alcohol with other drugs, increases your risk of having a crash.

Drug testing

Mobile Drug Testing (MDT) at the roadside in NSW operates alongside Random Breath Testing (RBT) for alcohol and targets four illicit drugs - cannabis, cocaine, speed/ice and ecstasy. MDT is increasing in NSW, with police undertaking up to 200,000 roadside drug tests each year in NSW by 2020.

Driving under the influence of an illegal, prescription or over the counter drug

MDT is not the only method to detect drug driving. The second type of drug testing applies where a driver shows signs of being impaired by a drug at the roadside. Police can arrest you if they suspect you are driving while impaired by illegal drugs or medicines and you fail a sobriety assessment.

You will be taken to a hospital to give samples of blood and urine for drug testing. This testing can detect a wide range of illegal drugs, as well as medicines.

In a crash where someone is killed, blood samples are taken from all drivers involved and may be tested for drugs.

If you take prescription or over-the-counter medicines, it is important to always follow medical advice and the manufacturer’s instructions and only take the drug as prescribed.

If you have concerns about how a drug may affect your ability to drive safely, it is best to discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.

Plan ahead to get home

Our Getting home safely tips can help you plan ahead to avoid trying to drive if you are affected by alcohol or other drugs.

Help line

If you need help with alcohol or other drugs, call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on (02) 9361 8000 or the 24-hour support line on 1800 422 599.