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Drink driving limit – How much will put you over the limit and how much can you be fined


New research has exposed that British motorists are unaware of the legal alcohol drink driving limit. A study of over 2,000 motorists, by Swinton Group, found that many motorists admitted they didn’t know it or they guessed it incorrectly.

Motorists in Scotland are the most in the dark with 93 per cent of drivers being unaware of it, which is problematic as the limit there is stricter than in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Young drivers aged 18 to 24 were the least knowledgeable of all age groups, with only three per cent able to identify the drink drive limit.

Older drivers performed better and those aged over 55 were the most informed but just 14 per cent could actually answer correctly.

Male motorists were apparently more confident than women about getting behind the wheel of the car after they have drunk.

London drivers are also the most likely to get behind the wheel of the car after drinking than any group across Britain.

Legal level of alcohol in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland

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

Drink driving limit

Drink driving limit in the UK is a mystery to a proportion of motorists (Image: GETTY)

Drink driving limit

How long drink can remain in your system for (Image: PH)

Here are a number of the penalties you can receive for being caught drink driving:

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

You may get:

  • 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

You may get:

  • 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

You may get:

  • 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

You may get:

  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 2 years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned

Drink driving limit

Alcohol can affect individual drivers differently (Image: GETTY)

Other problems could include increased car insurance, your employer will see the conviction on your licence and you may have trouble travelling to countries in the USA.

Information on the NHS website reveals how many units are in popular drink across the UK.

How much is 1 unit of alcohol?

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:

  • 2.1 units in a standard glass (175ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 3 units in a large glass (250ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 2 units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)
  • 3 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)
  • 1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25ml)

It also reveals how long the alcohol takes time to leave your system or break down.

Drinking one larger (250ml) glass of wine will roughly take your body three hours to break down the alcohol. A pint of beer will take you around two hours to break down but a strong lager will take longer.

How long alcohol takes to leave your system is influenced by a number of factors.

The way alcohol affects you depends on:

•your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy)

•the type and amount of alcohol you’re drinking

•what you’ve eaten recently

•your stress levels at the time

Drink driving limit

Motorists are encouraged not to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol (Image: GETTY)

Head of Driver Behaviour at IAM RoadSmart, Rebecca Ashton said: “All motorists should be confident that they know the alcohol limit for where they are driving.

“For England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath and 22 micrograms in Scotland.

“The problem is that no one can translate this exactly into how many drinks or units they can have and still be legal to drive as it will vary substantially from person to person depending on things such as age, weight and metabolism. And adding the ABV value into the mix also has a big effect.

“So, since even a small amount of alcohol can have a serious impact your driving ability, our recommendation is simply not to drink anything alcoholic at all if you are driving.

“Don’t forget, there are plenty of ways to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking. Taxi apps can get you a ride within minutes and it’s a good idea to save the number of your local taxi firm in your phone too. Or, if you’re planning lots of nights out, why not take turns to be the designated driver among your group of friends?”

Anne Kirk, customer director at Swinton Insurance, said: “From the research, it seems that Brits aren’t clear on the legal drink driving limit, with a shocking 9 in 10 drivers admitting they don’t know it. They’re going with what they think is right, instead of checking the correct measures.

“Working out how much you’re legally allowed to drink is tricky and rarely accurate, so to ensure you’re not over the limit, the best policy is ‘none for the road’.

“Not only is it not safe to drive under the influence of alcohol, but because it’s against the law, your insurance could be affected if you are involved in an accident too.

“Many people don’t realise that if you’re convicted of drink driving, you’ll have to declare this to your insurance provider.

“This could potentially increase your insurance premium and stay on your driving record for up to 11 years”.



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