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Blog: Is drink driving a male problem?

More than a quarter of men say they have driven a car while over the legal alcohol limit, new research shows.

Overall almost a fifth of UK drivers admit to having got behind the wheel despite being over the limit.

That’s according to a poll of more than 3,000 motorists by car insurance company Admiral.

But when it comes to the biggest culprits, the research points the finger of blame squarely at men.

Drink driving one of the biggest killers

Despite years of hard-hitting road safety campaigns it’s still a sad fact that drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads.

In 2011 it is estimated there were 9,990 reported casualties and 280 deaths due to drink driving – accounting for 15 per cent of all road fatalities, according to the Department for Transport (DfT). 

And one of the biggest problems, it seems, is that many men are quite happy to flout the law in the belief that they’re fine to drive after a couple of pints.

Safe to drive after three units?

One out of 10 males say they would consider themselves safe to drive after drinking three units of alcohol, says Admiral. 

Meanwhile, only 1 per cent of women said the same thing.

Three units is about the equivalent to a pint of strong lager, two small glasses of wine or two alcopop bottles, the NHS alcohol units website shows.

And while the way alcohol affects you depends on a range of factors including your weight, age and metabolism, this amount is likely to take many people over the blood alcohol limit.

‘Men more likely to drink drive than women’

The result of this is clear: in 2011 1,120 men were killed or seriously injured in a drink drive accident compared with 380 women, says the DfT.

Motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller from Geoffrey Miller Solicitors specialises in drink-driving cases.

"In our experience men are definitely more likely to drink drive than women," she says.

"It’s perhaps due to a combination of factors including men’s lifestyle where they go to the pub after work and then drive home."

And it doesn’t seem the problem is confined to any particular age group as Miller says she deals with cases involving men of all ages.

A zero alcohol policy when driving

I personally stick to a zero alcohol policy when I’m driving as I’d argue: "How do you know you’re 100 per cent fine to drive after a drink?" And the answer, of course, is you don’t.

I also find alcohol can affect me to a lesser or greater extent depending on a whole host of factors, such as what I’ve eaten that day or how tired I’m feeling.

But not everyone feels the same.

A male friend, age 29 from Cardiff, says: "I’ll go to the pub and have a pint and will feel no effect at all.

"Especially if I have food with a drink then I feel absolutely fine to drive."

Anti-drink driving message not getting through to men

Admiral spokeswoman, Sue Longthorn, says: "The difference between men and women in our research is a worry. 

"It appears the anti-drink driving message is getting through to women, but not so effectively with men. 

"The amount of alcohol in someone’s blood is the same, regardless of their gender."

Is a change in the law needed?

Currently the legal alcohol limit for drivers in the UK is 80 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood.

This is higher than many EU countries such as France and Spain where the limit is 50 mg, for example. In Poland and Sweden the limit is 20 mg.

Almost half – 48 per cent – of people surveyed for Admiral’s research think the current limit should be lower than it is now.

And personally I agree as it’s no skin off my nose to walk or catch the bus home after a quick drink at the pub.

‘Current limit sends out the wrong message’

But if some people ignore the current rules, would a new lower limit have any effect?

According to Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at road safety charity Brake, the answer is yes.

She says: "The current limit sends out the wrong message, that it is safe to drink one or two, and encourages drivers to gamble with their safety, and guess whether they are over the legal limit.

"Simply lowering the limit would have a big impact on public understanding of the risks involved."

What do you think?

Is drink driving a male problem?

Should the legal drink driving limit be lowered?

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Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley

Adam Jolley is a content producer at He joined us in May 2012 from the world of financial services PR.

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Alcohol: did you know?

In the UK, the alcohol limit for drivers is:

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