How Long Do I Have to Wait to Drive After Drinking? (Australian Law)

by Bill Vasiliadis on November 6, 2012

Many people are curious about how long it takes for the body to break down alcohol. Once you’ve consumed alcohol, time is the only thing that can help your alcohol level return to zero. According to the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) in New South Wales Australia, drinking caffeinated drinks, eating food, or undertaking physical activity cannot help you break down alcohol more quickly and sober you up.

The Effect of Alcohol

The RMS website states that drink driving is a factor in 20 per cent of all crashes involving fatalities in NSW. Alcohol can affect your brain function and ability to make judgements, and it can give you false confidence. It can also affect your ability to focus on a number of different things at the same time. If you’re intending to drink, make sure you understand the risks, and ensure that you’re well under the legal limit if you get behind the wheel.

How is Alcohol Metabolised by the Body?

According to the Brown University website, when you drink alcohol, the liquid enters your stomach and passes through the intestine. Your stomach will absorb around 20 per cent of the alcohol, with the small intestine absorbing the remaining 80 per cent. The alcohol is processed by the liver with enzymes that break down the substance.

What’s One Standard Drink?

The Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing website states that one standard drink is any drink that contains 10 grams of alcohol. You can calculate how many standard drinks you’ve had by multiplying the percentage of alcohol in your drink by the volume of that drink you’ve had.

Examples of standard drinks include one 100ml serving of wine (with 13.5 per cent alcohol), a 30ml nip of spirits, one 355ml serving of mid-strength beer, or one 250ml serving of pre-mix spirits (with five per cent alcohol).

How Long Does it Take?

How quickly your body metabolises alcohol can depend on a number of different factors. These can include your size and weight, your gender, the health of your liver, how much food you’ve consumed, and how healthy you are on a general level.

Women tend to break down alcohol slower than men because of their smaller physique. The healthier your liver, the more efficiently it will break down alcohol. The process can take longer if you’ve had a lot of food to eat.

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing, it usually takes about one hour to clear 10 grams of alcohol, or one standard drink, from your system. So, five standard drinks can require five hours to completely break down for a zero Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) reading.

If you’ve had more to drink, it can take you until the next morning to break down the alcohol in your body. This means you should avoid driving, and arrange alternative transport options instead of opting to drive.

What Are the Legal Consequence of Drink Driving?

Each state and territory in Australia has its own drink driving regulations, and you should be aware of the laws that apply. If you’re on a learner licence, you should not have any alcohol before driving. Keep in mind that alcohol can impair your judgment, and reaction time, even if you’re under the permitted BAC limit.

Other drivers may be able to have a BAC of up to 0.02 or 0.05, depending on the type of licence they hold. If you exceed your permitted BAC limit, you may face the prospect of a fine, licence suspension or disqualification, or even a jail term. In this case, contact a drink driving lawyer immediately for advice.

For experienced drink driving lawyers in Sydney Australia, please visit

Bill Vasiliadis
Bill Vasiliadis is a professional internet marketer who enjoys writing on a wide range of topics. He currently leads the team at SEO for Small Business Pty Ltd based in Sydney, Australia.
Bill Vasiliadis
Bill Vasiliadis
Bill Vasiliadis

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