22 March 2023

The offence of drink driving by learner drivers in NSW

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NSW has three BAC limits, based on the category of a driver's licence and the type of vehicle being driven.
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A learner driver in Queensland has been jailed for a least a year after she drove under the influence of alcohol in 2021 and hit a toddler.

Brisbane District Court was told on Monday that Madison Lorraine McKenzie, 23, of Redcliffe, was speeding with a blood-alcohol level of .08 and without a supervising driver on the afternoon of November 28, 2021.

At 4.10 pm in Woody Point on the coast north of Brisbane, McKenzie was driving at a dangerous speed between at 61 to 68kh/h in a 50km/h zone and struck the toddler who was riding his bike with his parents.

At the scene, the young boy sustained various life-threatening injuries including a fractured femur, and ribs as well as serious brain injuries that left him foaming at the mouth.

After realising what had occurred McKenzie stopped the vehicle 200 metres from the incident site and ran back.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'd dropped my phone and I was picking it up and I didn't even see him. Is he still alive?"  McKenzie said to the parents at the scene.


McKenzie pleaded guilty to various charges including  dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm,  drink-driving below medium level and driving as a learner while unsupervised.

In regard to traffic conditions at the time of the incident, Crown prosecutor Cameron Wilkins deemed that the road was clear with the sun behind McKenzie and that the road was in good condition.

The toddler's mother also provided an impact statement to the court discussing how her son's potential has been "destroyed."

Victim Impact Statements include details of how the offences that the offender has been found guilty of, have affected the life of the victim and can guide the judge in the sentencing process.

"Before November 2021 I was living my best life with two gorgeous healthy little boys, my husband and a good job."

"That all came crashing down. He can no longer talk, walk, or go to the toilet by himself. He has multiple seizures and will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life if it is not cut short as I'm told it might be."  The mother said in court.

McKenzie's Barrister, Penny White, provided to the court various factors for the court to take into consideration including that she has no previous criminal or traffic offences, she was suffering post-traumatic stress due to the incident, had immediately confessed to her crimes as well as had issues with drugs and alcohol.

These factors may be taken as mitigating factors in the court that help to support leniency and may reduce the penalty a judge will impose.

She also made reference to the 'real factor" that led to the incident which was that McKenzie had her eyes off the road due to the distraction of reaching for her phone.

District Court Chief Judge Brian Devereaux sentenced McKenzie to four years of imprisonment and disqualified her from driving for five years, describing her offence as "more than just momentary inattention".

Jude Devereaux made reference to the severity of the crime and how despite the punishment, the circumstances for the toddler would never change.

"No amount of punishment for you is going to make the boy better or ease the family's burden," Judge Devereaux said.

She also highlighted the danger of driving under the influence and set this as an example for not only McKenzie but also the public.

"This was a very serious example of dangerous operation of a vehicle. It is inescapable that you actually go to jail."

McKenzie will be eligible for parole in February 2024.


Drink driving or Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious charge in NSW.

Various penalties can be imposed depending on the unique circumstances of the case including license disqualification, imprisonment, fines, a requirement to install an alcohol interlock device and vehicle impounding.

If you are driving with alcohol in your system above the threshold of the Blood Alcohol Concentration limit you are committing a crime and a penalty may be imposed.

NSW has three blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, which are based on the category of a driver's licence and the type of vehicle they are driving:

  • Zero BAC – for learner, provisional 1 and provisional 2 drivers/riders, as well as visiting drivers/riders holding an overseas or interstate learner, provisional or equivalent licence.
  • Under 0.02 – for drivers of "gross vehicle mass" greater than 13.9 tonnes, of vehicles carrying dangerous goods, or of public vehicles such as taxis and bus drivers.
  • Under 0.05 – for all other licence classes not subject to a lower limit.

According to Transport for NSW drink driving is a factor in about one in every seven crashes in NSW where someone loses their life.

Alcohol can affect your driving in many ways:

  • Slowing your brain and reducing your reactions to situations
  • Limits your ability to judge the speed of your car, distance from other cars, people or objects
  • Hinders concentration
  • Increases the likelihood that you will fall asleep at the wheel
  • Increases the risks you take as a driver
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