Stay Safe on the Road Know the Drink-Driving Law

Stay Safe on the Road Know the Drink-Driving Law

As a nation, the UK tends to be a fan of a tipple or two. Whether you enjoy a lunchtime pint or fizz Friday make sure you are clear on the drink-driving laws so you don't become one of the 40,000 drivers convicted every year.

How does alcohol affect my ability to drive?

We all know when we have had a drink we are more likely to lose a little coordination and find a new bravery we would never normally have. When we translate these effects onto driving behaviour the effects can be devastating. Those driving whilst under the influence of alcohol will experience;

  • Impaired vision, which can equate to a loss in night vision of up to 25%.
  • Slowed reactions, the effects of alcohol mean the brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye. For a driver, this means they cannot react as quickly to a situation on the road as they normally would.
  • Difficulty in processing, as alcohol makes processing information more difficult a driver may not be able to accurately judge what is happening in front of them on the road.
  • Increased likelihood to take risks, that sense of bravery we get after a drink is bad news for a driver. It may make them more likely to go a little faster, take a turn a little sharper or overtake that vehicle on a bend. All driving behaviours which could lead to an accident.
  • Loss of concentration and drowsiness, after a few drinks we all find it difficult to stay concentrating for long periods of time and start dreaming of being tucked up in bed. For drivers, this could mean not focusing on the road or even falling asleep at the wheel.

What are the drink-driving alcohol limits?

The limits in the UK differ. The legal alcohol limit for drivers is lower in Scotland than it is for the rest of the UK. Limits are as follows:

micrograms per 100 millilitres of ...  For England, Wales and Northern Ireland  For Scotland 
... breath  35 22 
... blood  80  50 
... urine  107  67 

How many units of alcohol can I drink and stay under the limit?

A very common misconception is that the drink-driving law can be translated into how many units of alcohol a person can drink and remain under the drink-driving limit. This is simply not true - there is no number of units of alcohol that everyone could drink and still be under the drink-drive limit - there is no one size fits all. This is because the same amount of alcohol could have a different effect on each person depending on;

  • weight
  • age
  • gender
  • metabolism
  • amount of food recently eaten
  • current stress levels

All these factors change the way alcohol affects a person's body. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, one person may be over the limit to drive, while another may not.

Learn more: Drug-Driving Laws Now Include Prescription Medications

Are there any ways to get alcohol out of my system more quickly?

There are many myths about the best way to sober up. Some believe a cold shower and cup of coffee will help, others swear by a fry up and some believe if you have been to sleep all the alcohol will have magically left your system!

The only way to get alcohol out of your body is to give it TIME, all other methods will fail. If you have consumed a large amount of alcohol the night before, even a full night's sleep in your bed, does not guarantee you will be safe to drive the next morning. The AA reported that in 2015, 20% of all drivers who failed breath tests were tested between 6am and mid-day.

If you have had more than a couple of drinks, the only way to be sure you are safe to drive the next morning is to take a breathalyser test. These tests are now readily available and could save you from being convicted of drink-driving or even worse ... causing an accident that leads to injury or death on the road.

What happens if I am stopped for drink-driving?

The police have the power to stop any vehicle at random and ask the driver to take a breathalyser test. If you fail this test at the roadside, or if the police have reason to believe your driving is impaired due to drinking, you will be taken to the police station.

Once at the police station you will be asked to provide 2 further breath samples using a more complex breathalyser. The lower of these 2 samples will be used to determine whether your alcohol level is above the legal drink-drive limit or not.

Refusing to provide the police with a sample is not an option and will in itself result in a conviction. Failure to provide a sample can lead to a driving ban of a least 1 year, an unlimited fine and a possible prison sentence of up to 6 months.

What are the punishments for being caught drink-driving?

The consequences of a drink-driving conviction will vary depending on the particular circumstances of each case. Details such as any previous drink-driving offences, any damage or harm caused to others, and how far a person is over the drink-driving limit are all likely to be taken into consideration.

If you are convicted of drink-driving you should expect:

  • A driving ban of at least 12 months
  • A fine up to £5,000
  • 3-11 penalty points on your licence
  • 6 month prison sentence

There are many more consequences to consider. If you have harmed another person you will have to live with the guilt of your actions. You could potentially lose your job due to your conviction and deal with the shame of what you have done. It will also have a financial impact on your life as you need to organise alternative transportation for the period of your ban and then face much higher insurance costs when you can legally drive again.

Drink-driving rehabilitation course

It seems there are people who never learn from their mistakes and continue to drink and drive after already gaining a conviction. Statistics from the government show that between 2011-2015 there were 8068 drivers caught drink-driving for a second time. More shocking are the 5 drivers who were convicted of drink-driving for the 5th time and the 2 who were caught for the 6th time.

Learn More : The Law on Mobile Phones Behind the Wheel

Due to this high rate of reoffending. If you are caught drink-driving and face a ban of 12 months or more, you may be offered the opportunity to attend a drink-driving rehabilitation course. You will be required to pay for the course yourself, which may cost up to £250. If you complete the course within a certain time period, it could lead to a reduction in the length of your driving ban.

The aim of this course is the educate drivers and hopefully lower the high rate of reoffending seen with this crime.

If you are ever in any doubt as to whether you are safe to drive or not - DON'T

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