Drinking and Driving – The Key Facts To Know

It’s long been known that alcohol consumption can result in dangerous driving on the roads. With alcohol impairing our ability to think clearly, pay attention and make safe choices as well as our reaction times and vision in some cases, drinking and driving is a very good way of significantly increasing your chance of having an accident and your car ending up on the scrap heap.

For the most part, drivers know better than to get behind the wheel after a heavy drinking session, but with more than 7,800 deaths or injuries on UK roads in 2019 as a result of one or more driver being over the drink-drive limit, there’s still too many risks being taken.

Even more concerningly, due to a lack of understanding around how alcohol is processed by our bodies, it’s likely that many more people are risking their lives (and licences) without even realising! We’ve pulled together some of the top facts and advice around drinking and driving to help you avoid making the same mistakes.

What are the drink driving limits in the UK?

In Wales, England and Northern Ireland the drink-drive limit is:

  • Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath – 35
  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood – 80
  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine – 107

In Scotland these limits are slightly lower:

  • Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath – 22
  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood – 50
  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine – 67

However, it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to calculate this exactly based on the number and type of drinks consumed, as each person’s body processes alcohol in a different way.

How quickly does your body break down alcohol?

It takes approximately one hour for one unit of alcohol to be removed from your body. This works out at roughly one hour per single measure of spirits, two hours per pint of lager, beer, or cider, three hours per large glass of wine, and three hours per pint of higher-strength lager, beer, or cider. It also takes around an hour for alcohol to be absorbed into the body, which should also be taken into consideration.

For example – in one particularly boozy night out where someone may consume 8 pints of beer, they should actually wait at least 16 hours from the time they stopped drinking until getting back behind the wheel! 

Number of hours for the body to break down alcohol per drink:

Number of drinksLarge glass of wine (250ml/three units)Weak beer, cider or lager (3.6%/two units)Guinness (4.1%/2.3 units)Higher strength beer, cider or lager (5.2%/three units)Single measure of spirit (one unit)

Is there any way of speeding this up?

Unfortunately, there is no way of speeding up the rate that alcohol is removed from your body. Although articles may suggest drinks like coffee or having certain foods such as a Full English Breakfast to help eliminate your hangover and make you feel more sober, these won’t help to remove the alcohol from your blood.

The only and safest way to ensure that alcohol has left your system is to sit and wait it out!

When can I safely get back behind the wheel to drive? 

Although the figures mentioned above give a rough estimate of how long it takes alcohol to be removed from your system, these numbers do differ from person to person. Your weight, gender and age can all contribute to the speed at which your body breaks down alcohol, among other factors, so it could take longer than these estimates for alcohol to leave your system.

To avoid being caught out, it’s best to avoid driving at all after drinking, and if necessary, the next day, to give yourself as much time as possible before getting back behind the wheel. 

Is it safe for me to drive after just one or two drinks?

Many people will often assume that they’re safe to drive home after just one or two drinks, however, this isn’t always the case. 

Although the most frequently used DR40 conviction is used for those “in charge of a vehicle while alcohol level above limit“, the DR50 conviction can be used for those who are “in charge of a vehicle while unfit through drink“. The latter conviction doesn’t require the driver to be over the limit, as it’s based on an officer’s assessment rather than breathalyser results.

As a result, you could still receive a fine and 10 penalty points on your licence for driving, even if you are legally below the limit.

You can also be convicted without actually driving the vehicle – it can also be determined that you are “in charge” of a vehicle if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a stationary vehicle, or are in possession of the keys with intent to start it.

How can I avoid drink driving?

  1. Arrange for someone to be the designated driver – if you know you’re heading somewhere where there’s likely to be alcohol on offer, pre-plan with your group so that one person is responsible for getting you home safely and staying tee-total for the night. 
  2. Use public transport or pre-book a taxi – public transport can be a great way of getting home safely, but if you’d rather not wait for a bus, try pre-booking a taxi instead. By booking in advance, you’ll have the security of knowing when and how you’re getting home, rather than risk waiting for hours or plans not coming together, and avoid being tempted to get in the car. It’s always worth having a taxi number saved too, just in case you end up drinking alcohol when you weren’t planning to!
  3. Leave plenty of time before getting behind the wheel – as we’ve seen, it can take quite a long time for alcohol to leave our systems, and definitely longer than just a couple of hours sleep after a late night. If you’ve had a lot of drinks the night before, have a slow morning and don’t plan to drive until the afternoon, so you’re not running the risk of being over the limit.
  4. Don’t be tempted to go out to your car – being deemed to be “in charge” of a vehicle can put you at risk of a penalty, even if you aren’t actually driving, so avoid temptation and stay away from your vehicle once you’ve started drinking. Leave your keys at home!

Dan Gick, Managing Director of Scrap Car Comparison comments:

“When it comes to drinking and driving, we all know that there are significant risks, as well as penalties involved. We know better than to go out on a heavy drinking session and attempt to drive home, but the problems lie where people are trying their luck and thinking that they can do the maths to work out how much they can get away with. 

“I’m sure many people will also be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be legally over the drink-drive limit to receive a penalty, and given that how we react to alcohol can be influenced by many different factors, we can’t always predict how we may seem after just one or two beers or cocktails.

“Some people will feel comfortable with having one alcoholic drink then driving home, but as a general rule, it’s safer to avoid driving after drinking alcohol altogether and ensure you have other means of transport available. Safety of yourself and other road users should always come before convenience”. 

Thinking about getting rid of your car or van? Then get a quote with us here at Scrap Car Comparison and your car could be collected within a day or two.

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