What is Mid-Range PCA and Low-Range PCA?
You’ve done it. Chances are most of your friends have done it. You meet up to throw down a few cold beers. You stay a little longer than you intend to as your favourite mates make an appearance, and pretty soon, you have a good buzz. No problem right? Unless you plan on driving home from the pub that is. Bamm! your caught by a roadside stop RBT.
What does the term PCA stand for?
You might have seen a tonne of references to the word “PCA” online to do with drink driving, but few sites actually give a definition of what the term PCA means. PCA technically means “Prescribed Concentration of Alcohol” when used in a drink driving context. PCA readings will differ depending on the country you reside (for readers outside NSW) as well as the classification of your licence and the vehicle which you are driving. It will differ from the above to a zero level for other licence types and “P” plates. The individual therefore will have a number of blood alcohol limits dependent upon the vehicle (motorbike, car, bus, taxi etc – even a motorised esky) at the time.
New South Wales has three BAC or Blood Alcohol Concentration limits – 0.00, 0.02 and 0.05.
The 0.00 limit is applicable to:
- All learner drivers;
- All Provisional 1 drivers; and
- All Provisional 2 drivers.
The 0.02 limit is applicable to:
- Drivers of vehicles of ‘gross vehicle mass’ greater than 13.9 tonnes;
- Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods; and
- Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers.
The 0.05 limit is applicable to:
- All other licences not subject to a 0.00 or 0.02 limit.
In New South Wales (NSW) there are four types of PCA drink driving offences. These are;
- Special range PCA applies to special category drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.02 and 0.049 g/100 mL
- Low range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.05 and 0.079 g/100 mL. Low-range PCA is defined by Australian law as having a BAC from 0.05 to 0.079.
- Mid-range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.08 and 0.149 g/100 mL – Mid-range PCA is defined in Australia as operating a motor vehicle on public roads while having a blood alcohol concentration (BCA) ranging from 0.008 to 0.149.
- High range PCA applies to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of over 0.15 g/100 mL.
Penalties for being caught in these PCA ranges can get you in some serious trouble that will cost you cash, and possible time in jail.
There are many factors affecting the BCA reading including gender, size, weight, health and liver function.
- Size and weight of a person. Smaller people may have a higher BAC from same amounts of alcohol than larger people.
- Liver function. Sluggish livers process s alcohol slower;
- Gender. A female of same height weight may process alcohol different compared with a man of same height and weight.
- Consuming food. Eating and drinking on an empty stomach will affect absorption of alcohol although eating after drinking doesn’t reduce the BAC;
- General health condition and level of fitness will affect an individual’s ability to process alcohol. BAC levels can even be affected if the person is unwell or feeling stressed.
- Consumption of other drugs will affect an individual’s ability to process alcohol.
Why Drunk Driving Is Stupid.
For those of you who really love your spirits and beer, do not drive after consuming your favourites. High range PCA, defined by Australian law as 0.15 or above, is the most serious of drunken driving offences. While low-range PCA and mid-range PCA can carry penalties including loss of your driver’s license for up to 12 months, and carry a fine of up to 20 penalty units, high-range PCA can get you 30 penalty units, and get your driver’s license disqualified for up to 3 years.
If that is not enough to make you think twice about climbing behind the wheel after a pub crawl, you can also derail your career and cause yourself some serious embarrassment. According to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a New South Wales Emergency Services official was caught at a random breath testing site in Wollongong driving a vehicle with a BAC almost two times the legal limit.
His mid-range PCA conviction was a major embarrassment for an official of the largest road crash volunteer rescue service in all of New South Wales. If it can happen to him, you can rest assured it can happen to you as well. Do not expect a judge to be sympathetic to you, as the judge in this case certainly was not in handing down a stiff sentence.
What Are The Costs (especially to you and family) of Low-Range PCA, Mid-Range PCA, and High-Range PCA?
First of all, you can read the sentencing and penalties for the offences on the Judicial Commission of New South Wales Website. The table below I have extracted from the Judicial Commission’s web page but there is more information on that site worth reading especially given that the information presented below can change at any time.
Table 1: Maximum penalties and disqualification periods for PCA offences
| Special range||10||No||Automatic 6 months|
| (first offence)||Minimum 3 months|
| Special range||20||No||Automatic 12 months|
| (second or subsequent offence)||Minimum 6 months|
| Low range||10||No||Automatic 6 months|
|(first offence)||Minimum 3 months|
|Low range||20||No||Automatic 12 months|
|(second or subsequent offence)||Minimum 6 months|
| Mid range||20||9||Automatic 12 months|
| (first offence)||Minimum 6 months|
| Mid range||30||12||Automatic 3 years|
| (second or subsequent offence)||Minimum 12 months|
| High range||30||18||Automatic 3 years|
| (first offence)||Minimum 12 months|
| High range||50||24||Automatic 5 years|
| (second or subsequent offence)||Minimum 2 years|
Source / Table Information from – Judicial Commission of New South Wales.
According to a recent article in the Canberra Times, as many as 60% of drivers involved in accidents on Canberra roads tested positive for as much as two times the legal limit of alcohol since the year 2002. During a recent 12-year period that was studied, more than 10% of drivers who required a hospital stay after an accident tested positive for alcohol. Research has shown that drivers with blood alcohol readings of 0.08 (termed the mid-range) are seven times more likely to be involved in accidents and individuals having blood alcohol reading’s of 0.15 (called a high range reading) are 25 times more likely to be in a vehicle accident. Drink driving is involved in eighteen percent of all fatal accidents in New South Wales.
The times have changed. It is no longer socially acceptable to drink and drive in Australia. While drunken driving rates for mid-range PCA and low-range PCA have declined in recent years,there is still more work to be done. You can also bet the authorities will be looking for you at random breath testing sites if you do decide to drink and drive.
So don’t be stupid, even a mid-range PCA or low-range PCA conviction can have a devastating effect on your life – and on your career as well.
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Please note this article is not legal advice and we are not legally qualified legal professionals. You should seek appropriate legal advice in relation to your specific case as each persons personal circumstances are different and may cover different aspects of law that are outside the scope of this article. The Information above can change at any time.