Drink Driving

In 2013 between 220 and 260 people were killed in accidents in the UK where at least one driver was over the drive limit. There were an estimated 240 deaths.

These figures are too high but accidents involving drink driving have decreased hugely over the last 35 years. Deaths and series injuries related to drink driving fell by more than three-quarters between 1979 and 2012.

What’s the drink driving limit in Scotland?

The alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland is different than in the rest of the UK. In December 2014 the limit was reduced to 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood. The breath alcohol equivalent reduced to 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

The Scottish Government say they have changed their drink drive limit to bring Scotland in line with most other European countries, to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer.

How much can I drink and stay under the limit?

There is no fool-proof way of drinking and staying under the limit. The amount of alcohol you would need to drink to be considered over the driving limit varies from person to person. It 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

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive so the only safe advice is to avoid any alcohol if you are driving.

How alcohol affects driving

Many of the functions that we depend on to drive safely are affected when we drink alcohol:

  • The brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
  • Processing information becomes more difficult
  • Instructions to the body’s muscles are delayed resulting in slower reaction times.

You can also experience blurred and double vision, which affects your ability to see things clearly while you are driving. And you’re more likely to take potentially dangerous risks because you can act on urges you normally repress.

How would I be tested for drink driving?

Even small amounts of alcohol affect your ability to drive and the only safe advice is to avoid any alcohol if you are driving.

If the police want to investigate whether you are over the drink driving limit, they will carry out a screening breath test at the roadside. To do this, they will use a breathalyser.

If you fail this test, or if they have other grounds to believe that your driving was impaired through drink, you’ll be taken to a police station and given a final breath test. At the station you will need to provide two more breath specimens into a complex breathalyser.

The lower of the two readings is used to decide whether you are above the drink driving limit. If the evidential breath sample is up to 40% over the limit you have the right to replace your breath specimen with blood or urine – the police officer will decide which test you will have. If you evidential samples show that you are over the limit, you will be charged.

The police can carry out a breathalyser test if you have committed a moving traffic offence (such as banned turns or going through a red light) been involved in an accident, or have given the police grounds to believe you are over the limit.

What’s the punishment if I get caught drink driving?

Anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit when driving will be banned from driving for at least 12 months, and fined up to £5,000. You can also be given between three to 11 penalty driving points. And you could be sent to prison for up to six months. Imprisonment, the period of disqualification, size of fine and penalty points depend on the seriousness of the offence.

If you’re caught drink driving more than once in a 10 year period, you’ll be banned for at least three years.

How to ensure you don’t drink and drive

  • Arrange within your group of friends who’s going to be the designated driver. A designated driver is the person who abstains from alcohol on a night out so they can drive the rest of their group of friends home safely.
  • If you live somewhere with good public transport links – take advantage of them. If you’re planning on staying out beyond the last train or bus, make sure you’ve got a couple of taxi numbers.
  • If you have no option but to drive, stick to zero alcohol beers, mocktails or standard soft drinks.
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