DRINK drivers cause deaths and serious injuries on UK roads every year.
But do you know how much is too much? Here’s all the information you need about UK laws on drinking and driving.
What is the drink-driving limit in the UK?
The drink drive limit differs in the UK depending on if you are in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.
Government guidelines state that the limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.
In Scotland the limits are 22 microgrammes in breath and 50 milligrammes in 100ml of blood.
The drink-drive limit in Scotland was reduced in 2014 – so just one drink could out you over the limit.
With just 10mg per 100ml of blood you are 37 per cent more likely to be involved in a fatal road accident than when sober.
How can alcohol affect driving?
Your ability to drive safely with alcohol in your system is impaired as:
- The brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
- Processing information becomes more difficult
- Instructions to the body’s muscles are delayed resulting in slower reaction times
- Blurred and double vision may be experienced which affects your ability to see things clearly while driving
- You are more likely to take potentially dangerous risks because you can act on urges you normally repress
What can affect the drink-drive limit?
There are several factors that can impact upon how much alcohol is absorbed into your blood, which can tip you over the limit.
These levels can be dependent on:
- your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy)
- the type and amount of alcohol you’re drinking
- what you’ve eaten recently
- your stress levels at the time
What is the penalty for drink-driving?
Those driving the next day while still over the limit are risking a jail term of 14 years for causing death by careless driving when under the influence.
Just being caught over the limit can land you a driving ban, a £2,500 fine and even a short prison term.
The actual penalty you get is up to the magistrates who hear your case, and depends on your offence.
Here are a few examples of the penalties handed out to drink-drivers:
- Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink can lead to three months imprisonment, an unlimited and a possible driving ban
- Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink can lead to six months imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for at least one year (three years if you have been convicted twice in 10 years)
- Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis can lead to six months imprisonment, an unlimited fine and driving ban for at least one year
- Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink can lead to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a band from driving for at least two years and an extended driving test before your licence is returned
Other problems include:
- An increase in the cost of car insurance
- If you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
How many units of alcohol can you have before driving?
The legal drink drive limit cannot be safely converted into a certain number of units, as it depends on a number of factors such as gender, body mass and how quickly your body absorbs alcohol.
As a rule of thumb, two pints of regular-strength lager or two small glasses of wine would put you over the limit.
It takes around two hours for a pint to leave your system although stronger beers and ciders will take longer.
A large glass of wine (250ml) is still in the blood for four hours and a single measure of a spirit takes just one hour.
Plus you’ll need to add on an hour for the alcohol to be absorbed into the system. So, if you have four pints and stop drinking at midnight, you’re not safe to drive until at least 9am – a bottle of wine and you have to wait until 1pm the next day.
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But this isn’t a catch-all rule. As mentioned previously, factors like your weight, sex, metabolism and how much you’ve eaten all contribute to how your body processes alcohol, so everyone has different limits.
The easiest way to avoid being caught out and to ensure you’re safe behind the wheel is not to drink at all if you’re planning on driving and give yourself plenty of time the next day before setting off.
When was the first roadside breath test carried out?
The first roadside breath test was carried out 50 years ago, on October 8, 1967.
In the year the breathalyser was introduced there were 1,640 people killed in crashes attributed to alcohol, but publicans protested to then-Transport Minister Barbara Castle that the new law could put them out of business.
AA president Edmund King said: “The breathalyser sits alongside compulsory seat belts and the introduction of EuroNCAP crash testing as the three biggest road safety life-saving measures introduced in the last half century.
“The breathalyser and subsequent campaigns saved thousands of lives and helped make drink driving socially unacceptable.”
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Which celebrities have been caught drink driving?
Troubled telly star Ant McPartlin was slapped with the UK’s biggest ever drink-driving fine after injuring a four-year-old girl by smashing into her parents’ car in Richmond, London.
He was stung for £86,000 after pleading guilty to being twice the drink-driving limit at Wimbledon Magistrates Court.
Ex-England captain Wayne Rooney was arrested after he was suspected of drink driving – he later pleaded guilty to the offence.
Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher was banned from driving on September 4, 2017, for two years after admitting driving a vehicle while above the legal limit.
Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino was also banned from driving for 12 months in February, 2017, after being caught on the wrong side of the road and over the legal alcohol limit.