New alcohol legislation in NSW
The New South Wales Government's new alcohol laws came into effect on the 24th February 2014. If you're planning a night out, it's important to be aware of these new laws and also make sure you have a safe way to get home.
Following recent alcohol-fuelled violence incidents including deadly "king-hits" in Kings Cross, there has been an increased focus on the dangers of excessive drinking, particularly at nightlife venues in the cityi.
Research has shown that many Australians have been subject to verbal and physical abuse by someone under the influence of alcohol, and strong evidence exists linking the excessive consumption of alcohol with violenceii.
In an attempt to combat alcohol-related violence in the CBD, Kings Cross and Darlinghurst, the NSW Government has brought new laws into place introducing venue lock-outs and affecting takeaway alcohol sales and last drinks. They have also introduced additional late night public transport services to get people home safely, and to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related crashes in the Sydney region.
1:30am lockouts and 3am last drinks laws have now been implemented in the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct, an area stretching from parts of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay. Medium to large venues, which hold more than 60 people, will not allow patrons entry after 1.30am, and no alcohol can be purchased at the bar after 3amiii. In addition to the new alcohol legislation, the NSW Government has also introduced new laws targeting alcohol-fuelled violence state-wide, with tougher sentences for 'one punch' assaults. Voluntary intoxication will also be removed as a mitigating factor when an offender faces courtiv. In 2008, almost one in twenty Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol, and these new laws also aim to reduce violence with tougher penalties for drunk offendersii,iv.
Getting home safely
Having a safe night out doesn't end when you leave a bar, club or live music venue. Some people choose to drive into the city from their homes, but it's important to be aware of the dangers of driving home after having a couple of drinks. The legal limit is 0.05 per cent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers on a full licence, but even at that level you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as when driving soberv. This is because drinking slows reaction times: it will take longer for an intoxicated driver to react to a hazard on the road and stop the car in time. Driving over the blood alcohol limit is illegal and increases the chance of an accident. It puts pedestrians and other road users in danger. The risk of being caught by a mobile random breath testing unit (RBT) is ever present, and the repercussions if you have an accident are seriousvi .
These driving under the influence (DUI) risks are highlighted by the NSW Government's Plan B awareness campaign. This campaign encourages people who are enjoying a night out to consider alternative ways of getting home other than driving, such as catching a bus or train, or jumping into a taxi.
Choose public transport
If you're heading out to a venue that is not within walking distance from your home, you should always have a Plan B and not risk your own and other people's safety - as well as your licence - by drink driving.
Your Plan B could involve public transport which is an effective, affordable and safe alternative to driving. Free buses have been put in place from Kings Cross to the CBD to help people get home from their night outi.
There are many mobile apps to help you get from the pub or club to your home safely and efficiently. The TripGo app, for example, provides information on all transport options including buses, ferries, trains, taxis and even bike shares. TripView is another transport planning app with real-time train, bus and ferry timetable data available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows. Using apps like these should make getting home on public transport easier and more convenient. For more information, visit the official Plan B campaign website, and have a look at the Transport for NSW website.