By Andrew Goode, Mellor Olsson Lawyers
With the Christmas period coming up there are many opportunities to catch up with family, friends and customers and if you drink alcohol, to potentially have "one too many".
Unfortunately, it is also harder to access taxis, although in many country areas that may be even less of an option. In that case, you might need to stay overnight, or make sure you have a designated skipper who is not drinking alcohol.
With all of this in mind I thought it would be useful to highlight the risks of drink-driving which include the following:
* An on the spot fine and 4 demerit points or if convicted by a Court a fine of up to $1,100.00 for a first offence if your blood alcohol content is over .05 but less than .08 as well as a loss of your licence for a minimum of 3 months;
* A fine of between $900.00 and $1,300.00 and a loss of licence for a minimum of 6 months if you are over .08 but under 0.15;
* A fine of between $1,100.00 and $1,600.00 if you are over 0.15 and a minimum suspension of licence of 12 months.
These penalties are usually increased if it is a second offence within five years.
In some circumstances the licence disqualification minimums can be suspended or varied, but you need an extremely good reason, such as a genuine medical emergency to get any variation.
Police also have the power to issue an instant disqualification for the minimum offence.
Your car will also be impounded and, of course, you will incur demerit points. You may lose your job if it requires you to drive.
If you are involved in an accident while driving over the limit you will be liable (unless it was not your fault), to cover the cost of the other driver’s vehicle but also usually your own vehicle as most insurance policies will not cover you. Don’t take me at my word however and always review your policy to see what it says about insurance cover in those circumstances.
There are a lot of expensive cars around the place, or even worse you might run into an expensive truck although if that happens your personal health will be of more concern than your wallet.
Worse still you and your passengers, or someone in another vehicle, may be severely injured, perhaps permanently. Those injuries could include loss of limbs, serious head injuries, paraplegia or even worse, quadriplegia.
These injuries can be life-changing events, not only for those who are injured but also their families as well.
If those injuries occurred due to your negligence while drink driving then you may well be held personally liable for damages.
In addition, you may end up in jail, and not just for a few months, if you have injured or killed someone else because of your drink-driving.
Hopefully all of the above will serve a salutary reminder of the risks you face if you get in a car after having one too many.
Clearly there are other ways to enjoy a drink and not run that risk, including nominating a skipper who drinks minimal alcohol, or ideally no alcohol, catching a taxi or organising a small bus if there is a group of you, or catching public transport (if available). If all else fails, take a swag and stay the night.
As long as you and your family follow those guidelines, you should be able to enjoy a happy festive season.
If you do not drink then you did not need to read all of the above although don’t get into a drink driver’s car!
P.S. Similar rules and risks apply to driving boats
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