Can Supervising Drivers Drink?
Section 49C of the Road Safety Act outlines that you cannot consume alcohol whilst supervising a learner driver.
Learning to drive is both an exciting and nerve-racking time for parents and adolescents. However, due the above changes in the law there are some misconceptions surrounding alcohol consumption and the supervising of learner drivers.
Who is a Supervising Driver?
Section 3 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) defines a supervising driver as a person, other than a commercial driving instructor, who is sitting beside a learner driver
When did this become an Offence?
This offence came into force on 14 December 2011. It was inserted into the Road Safety Act by section 4 of the Road Safety Amendment (Drinking while Driving) Act 2011.
Prior to this insertion, the Road Safety Act only required a person supervising a learner driver to be under the prescribed alcohol limit, which might have made monitoring a learner driver a little less stressful.
The Second Reading Speech of the Road Safety Amendment (Drinking while Driving) Act 2011 provides that s49C was inserted with the intention to ensure learner drivers receive adequate instruction from supervisors who are not impaired or distracted by alcohol. Additionally, the offence seeks to send a clear message to young people that drink driving is unacceptable.
Penalty for Consuming Alcohol whilst Supervising a Learner Driver
Consuming alcohol while supervising a learner driver is an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 10 penalty units ($1,817.40 as of 22 September 2021). That being said, s49C can be dealt with by the issuing of a traffic infringement notice, also known as an on-the-spot fine. Traffic infringement notices for consuming alcohol whilst supervising a learner driver avoid the need to attend court and carry a penalty of two penalty units ($363.48).
Section 49C does not form part of the section 49 provisions of the Road Safety Act which relate to the main drink and drug driving provisions. Consequentially, liability under s49C does not bring about mandatory license disqualification.
It is true to say that by virtue of s50(6) of the Road Safety Act all mandatory license disqualification do not apply to a person convicted or found guilty of a supervising offence.
Can a Driver Drink Alcohol whilst Driving?
Similarly, section 49B of the Road Safety Act outlines that it is an offence to consume alcohol while driving. This offence was also inserted by the Road Safety Amendment (Drinking while Driving) Act 2011.
The Second Reading Speech of the Road Safety Amendment (Drinking while Driving) Act 2011 noted that drink driving was a significant contributor to death and trauma on Victorian roads. It added that the offence of drinking whilst driving was introduced to close a loophole in Victoria which allowed people to consume alcohol whilst driving a motor vehicle. It was hoped that doing so would play a part in reducing the potential future damage caused by drink drivers.
Penalty for Consuming Alcohol whilst Driving
Section 49B carries the same penalties as s49C. It has a maximum penalty of 10 penalty units but can be dealt with by a traffic infringement notice which involves a penalty of two penalty units. s49B does not attract mandatory license disqualification.
To summarise, since December 2011 it has been an offence to consume alcohol whilst driving a car and whilst supervising a learner driver. Liability for these offences holds regardless of the offender’s blood alcohol limit, and both offences can be penalised by the issuing of a traffic infringement notice.
If you have to attend Court in relation to either a 49B or 49C offence you would be wise to engage an experienced traffic lawyer to assist. On a number of occasions our lawyers have had to direct both the prosecutor and the Magistrate on the issue of licence loss. Prosecutors routinely argue that the mandatory licence loss provisions apply which makes us wonder how often mandatory licence loss is imposed on the unrepresented defendant. Don’t get caught out at Court, call Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers.