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Drinking and Driving

According to Directgov in 2012, 230 people died due to drink driving. By drinking and driving, you risk your life and those of your passengers and others on the road.

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Any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive. You risk a fine of up to £5,000, a minimum 12-month driving ban and a criminal record.

This page aims to give you the facts, while dispelling some common myths.

How much can I drink and still be under the legal limit?

You can't calculate your alcohol limit - so don't try.

Any alcohol, even a small drink, will make you a worse driver. You won't be able to judge the speed and distance as well, and you're also unable to react as fast.

The only safe way is not to drink if you are driving, and never offer a drink to someone else who is.

There is no failsafe guide as to how much you can drink and stay under the limit. The amount and type of alcoholic drink and your weight, sex, age and metabolism will all play their part.

The quantity of alcohol in a half-pint of beer is approximately the same as in a pub measure of port/sherry or a small glass of wine. But:

  • Many beers and wines are stronger than average.
  • Drinks poured at home are usually more generous than pub measures.
  • Cocktails and alco-pops are very strong; their high alcoholic content is often masked by the taste of fruit juice.
  • Pub measures may be smaller than ones served at home but more and more pubs and restaurants are changing their optic sizes. New European measures are 35ml compared to a standard spirit measure of 25ml.

Any amount of alcohol will affect your judgement, starting with your judgement about whether you should have another drink.

If you drive at twice the legal alcohol limit you are at least 30 times more likely to cause a road crash than a driver who hasn't been drinking.

If I've been drinking in the evening is it ok to drive the next morning?

You may still be affected by alcohol the next day. Drive and you could lose your licence if you are still over the legal limit.

The buzz comes quickly... The booze goes slowly...

If you drink half a pint of ordinary strength beer:

  • After just ten minutes 50% of the alcohol will be in your bloodstream.
  • After an hour all the alcohol will be in your bloodstream.
  • This will then take a further hour to leave your bloodstream.

It is impossible to get rid of alcohol any faster. A shower, a cup of coffee, or any other ways of sobering up won't help. It just takes time.

What will happen if I am convicted?

If you are convicted of drink driving...

  • You'll have a criminal record.
  • You won't be allowed to drive for at least a year.
  • You could lose your job.
  • Your lifestyle could change dramatically.
  • Your insurance costs will go up.
  • You'll have trouble hiring a car for the next ten years.
  • You may be referred to a rehabilitation course.
  • You will have to pay the court costs.

If you are convicted of causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, disqualified for at least 2 years and a mandatory extended driving test.

If you are convicted of driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment plus a fine of up to £5,000, a disqualification for at least 12 months (three years if you're convicted twice in ten years).

If you are convicted of being in charge of a vehicle whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink the maximum penalty is three months imprisonment plus a fine of up to £2,500 and a discretionary disqualification from driving.

If you are convicted of refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment plus a fine of up to £5,000 and disqualification from driving for at least 12 months.

But I want to go out and enjoy myself

You don't need to mix drinking and driving:

  • Book a taxi.
  • Use public transport.
  • Stay overnight.
  • Drink soft drinks until you get home.
  • Arrange for someone who is not drinking to drive - you can take it in turns.

Think! Don't be a drink and drive statistic.