Drink driving

We all know we shouldn't drink and drive. If you live in the arse end of nowhere, however, it might be tempting to have a few tipples and drive home, rather than pay for a taxi. But how much can you drink and drive? What are the legal limits? Read on to find out.

A young person is sitting at a bus stop.

How can I get help if I was abused as a child?

Drink driving. Tempting? Yes. Dangerous? Double yes. And it’s not just dangerous for any unsuspecting rabbits/children crossing the road, but for you and your future too if you get caught.

How does alcohol affect your driving?

Driving whilst pissed, or even just a little tipsy, seriously impairs:

  • Your judgement “Ahh, that badger is milllllllleees away, I can definitely brake in time.”
  • Your coordination “I’ll slow down into third gear… oops… that was first gear. Sorry, car.”
  • Your reactions “Ahh, where did that badger come from? Quick, brake. BRAKE. Oh no… sorry badger. <sobs into steering wheels with guilt>

Upsetting? Now imagine if you substituted that poor flattened badger for a child. This is why drink driving is such a serious offence.

How much can I drink and drive safely?

We’d love to give you a clever little formula that calculates exactly how many pints you can sink and still be able to drive home safely – and legally. But, quite simply, that doesn’t exist. In fact, just one drink could put you in danger of breaking the law, and even if you’re not strictly breaking the law your driving can still become more dangerous.

A driver is guilty of drink-driving if they have more than:

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

What the hell does that mean? Well, because everyone reacts to drink differently – with your gender, weight, tolerance and metabolism all having an influence – it’s hard to tell. The safest bet is to stick to only one weak drink. Or better still – don’t drink at all.

Seriously, how many pints can you drink and drive?

Again, it’s impossible to say how many pints you can have and drive, even if your friends try to convince you that you can have one or two low strength beers, or a glass of wine, or several small glasses of wine.

You might still be over the legal alcohol limit, and – believe it or not – some people really aren’t safe to drive even after just a couple of units of alcohol, because drugs don’t impact everyone in exactly the same way. Learn more about what alcohol does to your body and brain here.

Your genetic history, along with a whole host of other factors, will affect how quickly you hit your drink driving limits on a breathalyser test. Eating food will also not impact your test results if you do get pulled over.

How do police test for alcohol?

They can stop you at any time and ask you to take a breath test, particularly if you’ve been driving like Lewis Hamilton on LSD through a field of cows (i.e. badly), or if you’ve had an accident.

The breath test involves blowing into a little machine that detects booze in your body. If you refuse to take the test and have no ‘reasonable excuse’ (hint, there aren’t many!), you can get arrested.

The machine gives a result immediately. If you pass, you’re allowed to drive off home. If you fail, you’ll be taken to the police station to take two more breath tests. If you fail those, you may be charged. Plus, you won’t be able to drive home until you’re sober, so you’ll have to call someone to come pick you up.

What are the punishments for drunk driving?

Driving whilst over the limit could get you:

  • 6 months in prison.
  • Up to £5,000 fine.
  • A driving ban of at least a year (three years if convicted twice in 10 years).

You risk all of the above even for just refusing a breath, blood or urine test too.

Causing death by careless driving whilst drinking could get you:

  • 14 years in prison.
  • An unlimited fine.
  • A driving ban of at least two years.
  • And you’ll have to take an extended driving test in order to get your licence back.

Other legal downers if you’re caught include:

How not to drink and drive

Besides stating the obvious of ‘don’t do 10 shots of Jagermeister just before you offer to drive everyone home‘, there are ways you can steer yourself away from temptation.

Don’t leave yourself open to persuasion when you’ve had a drink. If you’ve travelled by car, leave your keys with someone else, use public transport, or take a taxi.

Keep tabs on yourself – one pint can give you false confidence that you can manage another one and still be fit to drive. Rather than risk it, simply don’t drink at all if you’ll be in the driver’s seat afterwards.

Remember that alcohol stays in your body for up to 48 hours. So if you’ll need to drive the morning after, figure this into your evening plans. Stop drinking early and stick to drinks with low alcohol content.

Next Steps

By Ally Thomas

Updated on 15-Mar-2023