Drink and drug driving: the truth

Drink and drug driving both have serious consequences.

Let’s take drink driving first. Fortunately, today’s young drivers drink less than their parents. According to a recent survey, only one-in-ten see getting drunk as “cool”. Four-in-ten see it as “pathetic” or “embarrassing”.

So, if your mates think you’re an idiot as you stagger home from the pub, imagine how they’ll react if you reach for your car keys.

Most drivers, young or old, wouldn’t dream of drinking and driving. But there’s still a core of offenders who think they will get away with it, or don’t care. Their recklessness led to an estimated 240 deaths in 2018, according to government statistics. Include injuries as well as deaths, and the total number of casualties is 8680.

Do the smart thing. Drink or drive, never both.

How does alcohol affect driving skills?

  • It slows your brain function and reaction times.
  • Alcohol also causes blurring and loss of peripheral vision.
  • Drink reduces your ability to judge distance and speed.
  • It makes you over-confident and reduces the perception of risk.

Just one drink is enough to increase the risk of a crash. After two, the risk doubles. After five it can increase ten-fold.

What about the morning after?

Sleep doesn’t make alcohol magically disappear. You could still be over the limit and unsafe to drive the morning after a night out. It takes around an hour for your body to break down each unit of alcohol, so five pints of strong lager containing three units per pint would take around 15 hours to break down. So if you are drinking the night before driving, make it a quiet one – or don’t drink at all.

What does the law say about drunk driving?

In most of the UK, the legal limit for alcohol in the blood is set at 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood. In Scotland the rules are stricter, and the limit is 50 milligrammes.

Trying to drink up to the limit isn’t a smart move, as there’s no sure-fire way to stay the right side of the law – drink affects everyone differently, and even a small amount of alcohol will worsen your reaction times.

Get caught driving or attempting to drive while over the limit or unfit through drink and you may get:

  • six months in prison
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban of at least a year (three years if convicted twice in 10 years)

How about drug driving?

Drink and drug driving are both dangerous, and both can lead to trouble with the law. Road safety experts at TRL have found that 17% of drivers who die in road crashes (almost one in five) have traces of illegal drugs in their system, which may have affected their driving.

TRL also found that 6% of drivers who die in road crashes have traces of prescription drugs which may have contributed to the crash. Always read the label of any meds to make sure they are safe to use while driving. In fact, there are legal limits to the amount of some prescription medicine you can take while driving.

There are many ways that drugs can affect your driving ability, and none of them are good:

  • slower reaction times
  • poor concentration
  • sleepiness/fatigue
  • distorted perception
  • over-confidence.

What are the penalties for drug driving?

If convicted of drug driving you’ll get:

  • a minimum one-year driving ban
  • an unlimited fine
  • up to six months in prison
  • a criminal record.

It’s just not worth it.

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