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Alcohol Concentrations and Standard Drinks

 The ACT, like other states and territories in Australia, makes it an offence to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 or higher. This article will help you understand what that means.

Standard drinks

Counting your drinks might help you avoid reaching a BAC of 0.05, but only if you know how much alcohol is in each drink. As a rough guideline, converting drinks you have consumed to “standard drinks” will help you estimate your BAC.

A standard drink is one that contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. Examples of typical standard drinks are:

  • A “middy” (285 ml) of beer
  • A “nip” (30 ml) of spirits
  • A small glass (100 ml) of wine
  • A small glass (60 ml) of sherry

Keep in mind that a “shot” of spirits is about 45 ml, making it about 1.5 standard drinks. Also keep in mind that many wine glasses used in restaurants and wine bars are large. They might be the equivalent of 1.5 or 2 standard drinks.

Factors that determine BAC

How many drinks you have is only one factor that determines your BAC. Also important are:

  • Your gender
  • Your body weight
  • Your body fat
  • The length of time that passes between drinks

How recently you ate a meal and the size of the meal

Since so many variables are involved, it is impossible to be certain of your BAC based solely on the number of drinks you have consumed.

Safe drinking guidelines

According to the Australian Federal Police, to avoid exceeding 0.05, you should follow these guidelines:

  • For men:  no more than 2 standard drinks during the first hour, then no more than 1 per hour
  • For women:  no more than 1 standard drink during the first hour, then no more than 1 per hour

Drink driving

Remember that you do not need to be drunk or even to feel the effects of alcohol to commit a drink driving offence. Driving with a BAC of 0.05 or above is all that matters.

You can be stopped for a random breath test. Refusing the test is an offence that may result in a more serious penalty than failing the test. In addition, if you take the test and are only slightly above 0.05, it may be possible to challenge the test result. Consult with a lawyer if you want to defend against a drink driving accusation.

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