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Drink-driving - what you need to know

Before you even think of having that cheeky beer after work, educate yourself on what the law says about drink-driving.

A variety of boozy drinks

Let’s start with some eye-opening facts.

In 2013, 260 people were killed as a result of drink-drive accidents, and another 1,100 were seriously injured. 

Despite this, some people still play fast-and-loose with fate when they get in the car after a few drinks.

Not only is drink-driving dangerous, but getting caught comes with some pretty serious consequences.

So here’s some advice. Don’t drink and drive at all.

If that’s not enough, here’s some more information on the limits and implications of drink-driving.

What are the drink-drive limits?

In England and Wales, you’re considered over the limit if you have over:

  • 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath
  • 107ml of alcohol per 100ml of urine

In Scotland, these limits are lower and more in line with other European countries:

  • 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath
So what’s this in real money?

As a rule of thumb, two pints of regular-strength lager or two small glasses of wine would put you over the limit.

But this isn’t a catch-all rule. Factors like your weight, sex, metabolism and how much you’ve eaten all contribute to how your body processes alcohol, so everyone has different limits.

Check out our alcohol units calculator for more information on how many units particular drinks have.

Check your levels before driving

A police officer holding a breathalyser

Though not a legal requirement in the UK, it’s a sensible idea to keep a breathalyser kit in your car. They’re  a quick and easy way to let you know if you’re over the limit.

Keep in mind that you still might not be safe to drive the morning after. You might feel fine, but there still might be enough alcohol in your system to put you over the limit.

Alternatives to driving after having a drink

Luckily there are plenty of ways for you to get home after a few drinks.

As well as public transport, sober friends and taxis, there are services like Scooterman who will drive you and your car home safely.

The chauffeur arrives in a foldable scooter that’s stored in your boot while they’re driving you home. They’re also insured to drive your car so everything is above board.

What are the consequences of drink-driving?

The punishment for driving under the influence is severe.

You’ll be banned from driving for a minimum of 12 months. If you’re convicted twice in 10 years, this goes up to three years.

You could also be put in prison for up to six months, and be forced to pay a hefty fine.

The punishments for similar offences, like being in charge of a vehicle while drunk, are noted on GOV.UK.

Drink-driving bicycles and mobility scooters

What if you decide to cycle home after a night at the pub? What if you’re riding in a roadworthy mobility scooter?

The legislation for drink-driving applies to all “mechanically propelled vehicles” e.g. cars, motorbikes and vans.

However, bicycles are not mechanically propelled, and mobility scooters are classed as “invalid carriages”.

Neither require a driving licence, tax or insurance to use, and neither come under the same legislation that applies to cars.

While the strict laws around drink-driving don’t apply to cyclists, it’s still an offence to ride a bicycle “while unfit to ride through drink or drugs”.

As for mobility scooters, you are required to follow the Highway Code when driving one on the road.

This means that drink-driving laws apply to you the same as a car driver.

What are the insurance implications of drink-driving?

Alcoholic drink and car keys

Most insurers will have a clause stating that if you’re in an accident while driving over the limit or unfit to drive through drink or drugs, your cover is invalid.

This means that you’re not entitled to any payout from your insurer, and any other costs involved - eg a damage claim from another driver - would be your responsibility.

Having a drink-driving conviction will also mean you’re likely to see a sizable increase in your insurance prices, and some insurers may refuse to cover you.

If you’re a passenger in a car with a drink-driver and you’re involved in an accident, any compensation you’d be entitled to could be reduced.

This counts as “contributory negligence” - by getting in the car with someone who’s unfit to drive, you’ve contributed to your own injuries in a similar way to being in the car without a seatbelt.

There’s quite a lot of legislation and policy rulings around drink-driving, so let’s keep this simple:

If you’re driving, don’t drink. If you’re drinking, don’t drive.

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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 alcohol units calculator

Alcohol units calculator

The safest bet is to not drive if you've consumed any alcohol at all. But you can work out how many units your drinks contain with our alcohol units calculator.

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