Driving Hungover: Rules Around Drink Driving In Christmas Party Season

Year after year, Christmas after Christmas, we hear the tragic stories of people being injured or killed during the festive period by people driving under the influence. It’s a time of year that is synonymous with drinking and partying, all (initially) in good spirits. But, if it’s not handled carefully, it can have devastating consequences – not only for those unfortunate enough to end up in a drunk driver’s path, but also for the person who gets behind the wheel themselves. Make sure you don’t fall foul of any alcohol-related driving rules this Christmas by refreshing your memory on what you should and shouldn’t do.

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Can You Drive Hungover?

It’s impossible to say for sure, because everyone reacts slightly differently to the effects of alcohol consumption. If you suffer a splitting headache the morning after one or two pints, then you’re probably okay to drive. However, the reason it’s such a grey area is because even when you’re hungover and probably don’t want to look at another glass of beer, there’s a good chance you’ve still got the alcohol in your system.

In fact, back in 2013 the government estimated that 740 drunk driving accidents occurred in the morning, suggesting that many people got behind the wheel after believing to have slept it off, only to find out the hard way that they were still far too tipsy to be in control of a car! Plus, in total, 5,500 people were reported to fail breathalyser tests every year when tested between 6am and midday.

Naturally, the penalties for this behaviour aren’t void just because you’ve gone to bed before coming back out in your car. If you are caught by the police with alcohol still in your system, you’re in big, big trouble:

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

Possible punishments:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • up to £2,500 fine
  • a possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

Possible punishments:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

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

Possible punishments:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink

Possible punishments:

  • life imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 5 years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned

Don’t think that once you’ve moved on from the punishments above that your life will go back to normal, either. You’re likely to find your future car insurance costs go through the roof, difficulty finding work if the role involves driving, and you could even limit your choice of holiday destinations – many countries, including the USA, won’t allow people in with certain convictions!

Can You Drive The Morning After Drinking The Night Before?

Once again, this depends entirely on how much you drank last night. If you had a small amount, perhaps no more than a pint, then you’ll almost certainly be well within the legal limit, and probably even totally free of the alcohol altogether. However, if you had a significant amount to drink or, if you didn’t get into bed until the wee hours of the morning, there’s a good chance you’ll be over the limit when you wake up.

How Long After Drinking Alcohol Can You Drive?

The general rule of thumb is that it takes one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave your system, but as we’ve stressed throughout, this isn’t set in stone and will vary slightly from person to person. One of the most significant factors in figuring out how long it will take you to become sober is your weight, though gender also plays a role. For example, a smaller woman will typically be able to handle less alcohol than a large man.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System

We may have specified above that it takes approximately one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave your system, but bear in mind that this is just a guideline. It’s also reported that alcohol can stick around in your system for six hours and can even still be smelled on your breath for an entire day, so you could even find yourself being breathalysed by the police on your way home from work the following day, let alone on your way there.

Tips For Being Safer Behind The Wheel Over The Festive Period

Okay, it’s time to wrap this up like a Christmas gift. There are some surefire ways to promote the safety of yourself and others when driving during the Christmas party season. Many of them are common sense, but since so many people still get behind the wheel while they’re drunk, clearly the message needs to be drilled in a little bit more.

Get a lift

Get someone else to drive, like a friend or relative who isn’t attending the christmas party you’re heading to. This way you know with complete certainty that your driver won’t have been tempted or persuaded to have a drink or three before hitting the road!

Car share

In similar fashion, you could simply hop in with a colleague or friend who has also been at the party if they’re heading in the direction of your home. Just be sure not to repay them by throwing up all over their upholstery…

Designated driver

This is one that has been promoted for a while now, with companies like Coca Cola even going as far as to give free drinks to designated drivers at certain drinking establishments. A designated driver, for those who might not be aware, is the person within your group of mates who offers to take one for the team and stay sober for the evening. They might not enjoy their Christmas party as much as you, but they’re being sensible, and you’ll all owe them one. 

Get a taxi

The most obvious solution and probably the easiest to arrange, but also likely to be the most expensive. Climbing into a taxi after a night out allows you to enjoy yourself without worry… well, unless you’re stressing over how much it’ll cost. Split the fare with friends who live near you and all be responsible together.

Use public transport

If you’re leaving the party early enough, or live in a city lucky enough to be serviced by a nighttime transport network, public transport is probably the best option you could choose. It will be significantly cheaper than getting a taxi and arguably the safest way of getting home, too.

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