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HEAVY VEHICLE DRINK DRIVING

There is a heavy emphasis for drivers of heavy vehicles to not drink and drive. While drink-driving is dangerous in itself, collisions or accidents involving heavy vehicles could potentially cause great damage both to life and property.

It cannot be overemphasized the need of the driver to take precautionary measures before taking the driver’s seat to avoid being penalized for driving a heavy vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. This article will provide an overview regarding heavy vehicle drink-driving in NSW.

What is a vehicle as contemplated by the law?

It is important to know what a vehicle is, as contemplated by the law. This is because you might be driving a motor vehicle that is not considered a vehicle insofar driving violations is concerned. Thus, under Section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013, it specifically defines vehicle as any vehicle on wheels other than vehicle used in railway or tramway. It includes any tracked vehicle that is not exclusively used on a railway or tramway or any other vehicle treated as such by the statutory rules.

What is a Heavy Vehicle?

A vehicle has to have a minimum weight before it can be considered as heavy vehicle. This is one of the information that one should not miss because the legal implication involved is not the same with other types of vehicles. Section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013 defines that a “heavy vehicle” means a motor vehicle or trailer that has a GVM or more than 4.5 tonnes, and includes:

(a) A special purpose vehicle that has such a GVM, and
(b) A passenger-carrying vehicle that has such GVM

Effects of alcohol on driving

The NSW Transport Roads and Maritime Services outlined the effects of alcohol while driving. Alcohol is a depressant and reduces your ability to drive safely because it:

• Slows brain functions so that you can’t respond to situations, make decisions or react quickly.
• Reduces your ability to judge speed and distance.
• Gives you false confidence that leads to taking risks.
• Makes it hard to do more than one thing at a time.
• Affects your sense of balance and coordination.
• Makes you sleepy.

The Penalty

Penalties for breaking the traffic laws include fines, disqualification from holding or applying for a licence, licence cancellation, refusal or suspension. For a very serious offence like drink driving, you may be fined, disqualified from driving or even go to prison. (NSW Transport Roads and Maritime Service, Heavy vehicle driver handbook 2012, p.112)
In imposing the penalty, courts will consider the following factors:

  • Blood alcohol concentration;
  • Whether the violation is a first or subsequent offence;
  • Whether the driver has had another major traffic violation within the last five years.

Under Section 10 Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act, courts are given the discretion whether to record a conviction or not. It will be to the great advantage of the driver if the court will not record a conviction because he will not be disqualified from driving.

How to avoid

It is always a good practice to wait for at least 18 hours after a heavy drinking night to drive again. This is because it is only after 18 hours after a heavy drink that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level will be back to zero.

 If you have been charged with a traffic offence or are under Police investigation, it is important that you seek legal advice.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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