Every year, a shocking amount of UK motorists are injured or killed in accidents caused by drinking and driving. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first roadside breath test so we’ve put together some information about the legal limit for drinking and driving in the UK, which, surprisingly, varies depending on your location in either England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Government guidelines clearly state that the legal limit for drinking and driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is:

  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine

However, in Scotland, however, the drinking and driving laws are slightly different. The limits are:

  • 22 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 67 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

As you can see, if you are crossing the border between England and Scotland, it is very important to be aware of these differences as you could easily fall foul of a breathalyser. This time of year with the Christmas holidays and New Year approaching in particular is where many drivers are caught out, whilst celebrating and visiting family and friends.

You should be avoiding drinking before you drive at all, arranging for taxis or having one dedicated driver. After even one drink, your reactions are affected and even when comfortably below the limit, it’s not worth the risk of being caught unawares and causing an accident.

How much can you safely drink before driving?

The current UK drink drive limit does not state exactly how many units of alcohol you can safely drink. This is because there are many factors that can affect the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream of individuals, such as weight, gender and age. A small middle-aged woman, for example, is not going to be able to drink as much alcohol without exceeding the limit as a tall heavily built man.Two small glasses of wine or two pints of regular beer would likely take an average person over the limit. A glass of wine takes approximately four hours to leave your bloodstream, while lager or beer takes roughly two hours.

What are the penalties for drinking and driving?

If you are caught driving the next day whilst under the influence, you could face a prison sentence of 14 years if you cause death by careless driving. If you simply fail a breathalyser test, you can expect a £2,500 fine, a driving ban, and possibly a short spell in prison. However, the actual penalty depends on the circumstances of each individual case and the inclination of the magistrate who hears the case.

Here are some recent examples of fines and punishments given to drink-drivers:

  • Driving a vehicle whilst above the legal limit can lead to three months imprisonment, a fine of up to £25,000, and a driving ban.
  • Those with former convictions of the same type of offence can expect to receive harsher penalties, such as 6 months imprisonment, a driving ban of up to 10 years and an unlimited fine.
  • If you refuse to provide a specimen of breath, urine or blood for analysis, you can look forward to a six-month spell in prison, an unlimited fine and a driving ban of at least a year.
  • Causing death by careless driving when over the current UK drink drive limit can result in up to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a ban from driving for at least two years, and an extended driving test before your licence is handed back to you.

If you are planning a big night out or a weekend away with a group of friends, why not hire a minibus or people carrier with a designated non-drinking driver? Caversham Vehicle Hire offers a wide range of high-quality car, vans and minibuses for short, long-term or weekend hire. Contact us to find out more!