Drink Drive Limits and the Law
Published: 14 November 2023
Drink driving is a serious offence that can have devastating consequences. It is important to be aware of the drink drive limits in the UK and to take steps to stay safe on the roads.
Why are there drink drive limits?
Alcohol impairs your judgement, reaction time, and coordination, making it much more likely that you will be involved in a crash. Drink drive limits are designed to protect everyone on the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
What are the drink drive limits in the UK?
The current drink drive limits in the UK are as follows:
- England and Wales: 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (80mg/100ml) or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
- Scotland: 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood or 22 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.
Should the drink-drive limit be the same across the UK?
There are strong arguments to be made for reducing the drink-drive limit across the UK. Some safety campaigners argue that it should be reduced to 20mg per 100ml, which would bring the UK in line with Sweden, which has one of the lowest drink-drive limits in the world. However, the UK government has resisted calls to reduce the limit, arguing that the current limit is effective and that reducing it would disproportionately impact people who live in rural areas.
How alcohol affects your driving
Alcohol is a depressant that impairs judgement, coordination, and reaction time. Even small amounts of alcohol can make it unsafe to drive.
- Reaction time: Alcohol slows down the brain’s ability to process information and send signals to the body. This can delay your reaction time to hazards on the road.
- Judgement: Alcohol impairs decision-making and makes it more difficult to assess risks. This can lead to poor driving decisions, such as speeding, tailgating, or driving in the wrong lane.
- Coordination: Alcohol affects muscle coordination, making it difficult to steer, brake, and accelerate smoothly.
Drivers who drink are also more likely to take risks and underestimate their own impairment. This is because alcohol creates a false sense of confidence.
How to assess your fitness to drive
To be safe, drivers should ensure they are completely sober before driving, including the next day. There is no way to know exactly how long it takes to sober up completely, but it is longer than many people think. A rough guide is to allow at least one hour for your body to absorb alcohol, plus one hour for each unit consumed. However, it can take longer, so it is wise to leave extra time to be safe.
Police testing for alcohol use
The police can stop you at any time and ask you to take a breathalyser test if they suspect you have been drinking, have committed a traffic offence, or have been involved in a road traffic collision.
If you refuse to take a breathalyser test, or fail to provide a sample of breath without a reasonable excuse, you can be arrested. You may also be required to have a blood test.
Penalties for drink-driving in the UK
If you are caught drink-driving in the UK, you face a number of penalties, including:
- A maximum prison sentence of six months
- An unlimited fine
- An automatic driving ban of at least one year
The actual penalty you receive will depend on the severity of your offence and will be decided by a magistrate.
Drink driving is a serious offence that can have devastating consequences. It is important to be aware of the drink drive limits in the UK and to take steps to stay safe on the roads.Back to all help and advice articles