A Complete Guide To The Legal Alcohol And Drink Drive Limits In The UK.

When driving a car, a person must be careful every single time, no matter how experienced they may be. When someone has consumed alcohol - be it a single drink or a few drinks, they must be even more careful while driving, because of the incoherence that is created. This is why it is illegal to drive while drunk as it might turn out to be dangerous for the driver and the others on the road as well. In this blog, we shall look at the drink drive limit of the UK.

The UK government’s drinking driving limit means that you are allowed to drive legally when you have alcohol to a certain extent. Let us see what this limit is, and what other rules there are for drinking driving in the UK.

The Drink Drive Limits And Laws In The UK

According to British law, one is not supposed to drive a vehicle after having consumed alcohol, as it is a criminal offense. There are set drink drive limits in the UK which shouldn’t be crossed. While there is a limit set for the quantity of alcohol units that can be taken for someone to be eligible to still be driving, there is no way to know when you have crossed the limit. Thus, it is better to avoid drinking when driving.

If you do so, you can be punished. If a passenger in the car is also drunk and suspected of having driven the car at some point, they can be prosecuted. The alcohol limit for driving should never be crossed when you plan on driving after a drink, as it could result in serious repercussions for you.

Also Read: Winter Driving Tips


How Many Units Of Alcohol Can You Drink And Drive? What Is The Drink Driving Limit In The UK?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the drink drive limit is the same.

Here is the drink drive limit in the UK (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland):

1. 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath; or

2. 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood; or

3. 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.

What Is The Drink Drive Limit In Scotland?

Here is the alcohol limit in Scotland:

1. 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath

2. 50 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

3. 67 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

How Many Hours After Drinking Can I Drive?

There is no definitive answer to when you can drive after drinking, as it is not advised to drive after you have put alcohol into your system, in the first place.

Alcohol is said to remain in your urine for 12 hours, on your breath for 24 hours and in your hair for 90 days.

A few calculators on the internet use the Widmark formula to calculate how soon a person can drive after drinking. According to this formula, a person’s blood alcohol level is equal to the grams of alcohol consumed, multiplied by 3.75 for women and 4.7 for men, then divided by the person’s weight in grams.

Example: A 70kg woman who consumed four glasses of 12% wine would take around 10 hours to be sober, or to have no alcohol content remaining in her body.

An 83kg man who consumed four pints of 4% lager would take around 11 hours to get sober.

None of this considers a person’s metabolism or sensitivity to alcohol, but they are broadly good statistics which give a rough idea of how things work.

How Can Alcohol Affect Driving?

Alcohol can affect driving in many ways. A number of factors can affect or influence your driving capability when you are under the influence of alcohol. Here are a few of those factors:

1. Ability to judge speed and distance

2. Reaction and coordination skills

3. Blurry or impaired vision

4. Drowsiness

5. Aggression

6. Erratic behaviour

7. Panic attacks and paranoia

8. Hallucinations

9. Nausea

10. Dizziness

11. Tremors

Risk taking behaviour is increased when alcohol and drugs are in your body, as they can create a false sense of confidence in a person. This puts everyone’s lives in danger.

What Can Affect The Drink Driving Limit?

Alcohol doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Depending on the person, the way alcohol affects a person varies. The way alcohol affects you depends on the following factors:

1. Your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate at which your body uses energy

2. The type and quantity of alcohol you are drinking

3. What you’ve eaten recently

4. Your stress levels at the time

All these factors will affect the way alcohol works on a person, which will in turn affect your drinking limit.

Also Read:How to use Fog Light Symbols while driving?

Can I Drive The Morning After Drinking?

Whether you were within the legal limit for alcohol or not, alcohol is expected to remain in your urine for 12 hours, on your breath for 24 hours and in your hair for 90 days, as stated earlier.

This means that a person could still be under the influence of alcohol even the morning after drinking.

Thus, it is better to avoid drink driving in the first place, and if you cannot avoid drinking, it is better to avoid driving for at least a day after that.

Do Many People Still Drink And Drive?

Yes, many people still do drive. A survey was done towards the end of 2022, which provided some statistics based on data from the previous 12 months.

It was found that almost one in ten men (9%) know of someone who got behind the wheel of a car after going way beyond the drink drive limit units, by consuming a lot of alcohol. This is based on the examination done on 1,000 adults nationwide.

The research also found that overall, one in five (19%) people knew someone who had driven when drunk in the last year, after having at least the slightest bit of alcohol. A further 7% admitted to knowing someone who had drank a lot before doing so.

What Happens If I Get Caught Drink-driving?

There are set drinking driving units in the England and Wales. You should adhere to these rules, or you are susceptible to the after affects. If you are driving after you have had a drink, and if you are not within the required units of alcohol to drive, you will fall into serious trouble. There are three ways by which the police can and will check if you are within the legal alcohol limit to drive or not. They are:

1. Breath test

Also known as the breathalyser limit, your breath would be tested by the police, and in this test, the limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

2. Urine test

If a urine test is conducted, only 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine is allowed.

3. Blood test

If a blood test is done, only 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood is allowed.

If your alcohol intake crosses any of the above stated legal drinking limits, then you will be arrested and charged for the same. Following that, you will most likely be bailed and will have to attend court on a specified date. While you will be allowed to drive in the meantime, if the court rules a ban, then it will be effective immediately.

Penalties For Drink-driving

As stated above, you could be imprisoned and, or banned from driving if you are found guilty of not staying within the legal units to drive, or if you are found drink-driving and could also face a fine. There is a drink driving penalty and what your penalty would be, depends on the magistrate wo hears your case and decides on the same.

If you are banned from driving for 12 months or more, then you might be able to reduce your ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) course.

Here are some other penalties that you might face, depending on the scenario that you could get yourself into:

1. Unfit through drink or being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal drinking limit.

The penalties include:

a. 3 months imprisonment

b. Fine up to £2,500

c. A possible ban on driving

2. Unfit through drink or attempting to drive, or driving, while above the legal drinking limit

The penalties include:

a. 6 months imprisonment

b. Unlimited fine

c. A ban on driving for at least 1 year (3 years ban if you are convicted twice in 10 years)

3. Refusing to provide a specimen of urine, blood or breath for test or analysis.

The penalties include:

a. 6 months imprisonment

b. Unlimited fine

c. A ban on driving for at least a year

4. When under the influence of drink, causing death due to careless driving.

The penalties include:

a. Life imprisonment

b. Unlimited fine

c. A ban on driving for a minimum of 5 years

And extended driving test before your licence is returned.

There is also a scenario where you will not automatically get your licence back if you’re a high-risk offender.

5. Here are some other problems that you could face:

a. A significant increase in your car insurance costs

b. Your employer would be able to see your conviction on your licence if you drive for work

c. You may face trouble travelling to countries like the USA.

How To Avoid Drink-driving?

As stated, several times before, it is never a good idea to be drinking and driving or driving when you are drunk. There is a better option than staying within the legal drink drive limit, and it is avoiding alcohol. Driving when drunk could result in a lot of serious issues for you in the long run. Here are a few ways through which you can avoid drink driving:

1. A Designated Driver

If you go out with your friends to have drinks, then take turns by assigning one friend each night to be the designated driver for the night, where they don’t drink that night and drive the rest home. Otherwise, at have a parent come to pick you up and drive you home.

Also Read:Driving In The Dark

2. Using Public Transportation

You could always get a taxi when you’re drunk, to get home. For that, make sure you have a local taxi number available for you readily. You could use buses and trains - just ensure that you know their timetable well enough, so you don’t miss the last train or bus.

3. Having Non-alcoholic Beverages

Safety should be anyone’s topmost priority. Thus, it’s okay to be celebrating with non-alcoholic beverages occasionally. Opt for a zero-alcohol beer or a mocktail to party and get home safe.

4. Alcohol Free Nights Out

It's not compulsory to have alcohol whenever you go out at night with your friends. Trying to go out for a meal or a movie every now and then, which will be a welcome change and a way to avoid being tempted to have a drink. You might just end up having a great time and be able to drive home safe.

5. Avoiding Peer Pressure

It's a common thing nowadays, to feel pressurised by our peers to have a drink. However, the fact remains that there is no necessity or rule that you must do it. While you may decide to have a drink, you also need to keep in mind that you need to get home safe. In such situations, it is better to avoid a drink and get home safe.

How To Report Someone For Drink-driving

Before you report someone for drink driving, you can always:

1. Talk To Them

If the drunk person getting behind the wheel is someone you know personally, like a friend, then always try to talk to them and convince them not to drive.

2. Inform The Bar Staff

Additionally, you can inform the bar staff of the same and request them to deal with the situation. This doesn’t require for you to personally know someone. You can always help anyone in that situation.

Remember that you do not have to reveal your details to someone while reporting a drink drive case. You can always do that by staying anonymous. Ensure you have the following information before you report someone:

a. The person’s name and address

b. The car’s model and registration number

c. Which alcoholic beverage the person may have consumed.

You can report a suspected drink drive case using the following numbers:

a. On phone - call 101

b. You can fill an online form as well.

c. Call 999 if it’s an emergency


Drinking and driving is a legal offence and should not be done. Avoid doing the same as it is not safe for you or the other people on the road either. You can always make the use of public transport when drunk. Additionally, if you see someone about to do such a thing, always ensure you report them for their safety and others’ safety as well.

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