NSW’s tough new drink driving penalties will affect ACT motorists

Lachlan Roberts 8 May 2019 18

No adjustments have been made to ACT laws but the new NSW laws will still affect Canberra motorists. File photo.

Canberra motorists who are caught with a low-range drink driving offence on NSW roads will be immediately suspended from driving for three months under new laws in that state.

The new NSW laws, which will come into effect on 20 May, will see all drink drivers, including first-time offenders of low-range drink driving (blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.079), immediately lose their licence and be fined $561.

When making the announcement earlier this week, NSW Roads and Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the changes would create a tougher stance on drink driving on NSW roads.

“This reform makes it clear if you break the law, you will pay the price,” Mr Constance said. “We are taking a zero-tolerance approach to drink and drug driving.

“This means anyone caught drink driving in NSW, at any level, including low-range, can now lose their licence immediately.

“Drivers who have an illegal level of alcohol in their blood or have used illegal drugs have no place on the road.”

The new laws mean offenders do not need to go before a court but if they do choose to fight the charge they risk a bigger fine and potentially a longer licence suspension.

So how will Canberra motorists be affected under the new laws?

Despite the changes in NSW, no adjustments have been made to ACT laws but the new penalties will still affect Canberra motorists and all interstate drivers. ACT drivers charged with low-range drink driving offences over the border will receive the same suspension and fine as their NSW counterparts.

Local lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith, who is a partner at Kamy Saeedi Law and chair of the ACT Law Society’s Criminal Law committee, believes the new laws will see more people re-offending and have a disproportionate impact on offenders.

Mr Kukulies-Smith said attending court was a sobering experience for many and reduced their chances of drink-driving again. He believes infringement notices with the automatic fines and suspensions were less effective in changing future behaviour.

He also believes the arbitrary nature of the new laws will mean some people’s lives will be impacted out of all proportion to the offence, without the overview of the court.

“The changes will lead to people being forced off the road irrespective of the consequences to their work, family or personal need for a motor vehicle,” Mr Kukulies-Smith said. “This arbitrary effect, until now, would have been moderated by a court.

“Automatic suspensions are likely to have devastating effects on people who make just one mistake in their lives.

“These changes were introduced to achieve cost savings in the local court but it is members of the public who will pay the costs in the form of disproportionate fines and disqualifications.

“Although the effects for automatic disqualification may be harsh, experience reveals that infringement notices are less effective than attendances at court in changing future behaviour.”

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18 Responses to NSW’s tough new drink driving penalties will affect ACT motorists
Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 8:19 am 12 May 19

I hope they are also increasing the penalties for low range drug usage. Still see lots of aggressive driving on the roads.

Susan Flint Susan Flint 3:15 pm 11 May 19

What makes the people of Canberra think they should be treated any differently to anyone anywhere else in this country I personally think when the powers that be make decisions as important as this one it should be made nationally, make it law in the whole of Australia and show the rest of the world just how serious we are about road safety.

Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 9:11 pm 09 May 19

I have a very sneaky way of not getting caught drink driving: I don't do it.

It's really not rocket science.

James Forge James Forge 1:36 pm 09 May 19

I remember a few years ago NSW dropped the legal alcohol level for driving from 0.08 to 0.05. For several months after the ACT left it at 0.08 but eventually followed.

This will possibly be the case here too.

M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 11:38 am 09 May 19

We Canberrans are subject to NSW laws when we're in NSW? Outrageous!

    Bruce Robey Bruce Robey 12:01 pm 09 May 19

    Martin Leonard All the more reason not to venture into Queanbeyan, Marty.

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 12:05 pm 09 May 19

    Bruce Robey I did it once and I don't want to talk about it.

    Ian Edward Ian Edward 12:14 pm 09 May 19

    Martin Leonard Injun Territory

    M.J. Leonard M.J. Leonard 12:58 pm 09 May 19

    Ian Faulds That's exactly what I was thinking about! What a funny night that was.

Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 9:41 am 09 May 19

RiotACT can you clarify if the suspension would be effective in ACT.

Raffy Sgroi believes not!

Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 1:49 am 09 May 19

For ACT license they will have the power to suspend the visiting driver's authority to drive on NSW roads for a period of three months. They don’t have power to suspend it in ACT

    Joshua Vic Joshua Vic 11:05 am 12 May 19

    Raffy Sgroi where are you getting your information from?

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 1:50 pm 12 May 19

    Joshua Vic The laws regarding drink-driving in the ACT have not changed!


    MTA ACT Director

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 11:33 pm 08 May 19

Any KPI formulated to determine if the new laws are more effective than the ones they are replacing?

Annil Singh Annil Singh 10:57 pm 08 May 19

Why doesn't the ACT adopt the same penalties ? drunk driving seen as a lesser offence ? Probably see 1 RBT a year...

    James Forge James Forge 1:33 pm 09 May 19

    Drink driving is considered a bigger crime in the ACT than car theft is.

    Having said that car theft in the ACT seems to get a lesser penalty than speeding does.

Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 8:59 pm 08 May 19

Consistency of laws would be a good thing given that almost all ACT motorists travel into NSW. Clearly this law will also affect those motorists who live close to the border in QLD,VIC & S.A.

Sophia Burrell Sophia Burrell 8:03 pm 08 May 19

Oh no Scott! Will affect ACT....u better pull up at a rest area from now on...😂 Holly Burrell

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