Drink driving: the facts

The last time you went out on the lash, did you jump into your car within a few hours, to commute to work? Chances are, you were boozing until the early hours of the morning, grabbed a few hours’ kip then set off in your car.

The assumption is often made that no matter how sloshed you get, as long as you grab a bit of sleep – even if it’s just an hour or two – the alcohol in your system will magically disappear. But of course it doesn’t, which is why so many drivers lose their licence as a result of ‘morning after’ testing. 

Get caught over the limit and the penalties are severe

At the moment, the UK has the lowest rate of alcohol-related deaths in Europe; around one in six fatalities on our roads is because of driving over the limit. But as a young driver, statistically you’re more likely to take a chance than somebody more experienced, and an increasing number of drivers are falling foul of the law.

Get caught over the limit and the penalties are severe; drink driving is easily one of the most serious offences in the book, with an automatic 12-month ban for first-time offenders. Get caught a second time and you’ll be walking for at least three years.

Breathlyser myths 

  • Strong coffee will sober me up: Only time rids your body of alcohol. Caffeine in coffee can’t keep you alert and restore judgment.

  • Bigger people can handle their alcohol better: Body size can affect the rate alcohol is absorbed, but individual metabolism, the amount of rest you’ve had and when you last ate are key factors too.

  • Drink lots of water: A breathalyser measures the alcohol in the air in your lungs, so this one’s a non-starter.


Drink survival guide 

  • Don’t try to calculate if you’ve consumed enough to tip you over the drink-drive limit.

  • Drinks poured at home are usually larger than pub measures – don’t underestimate how much you’ve had.

  • If you drive to a party and drink more than you expected to, don’t risk it. Book yourself a taxi or arrange for a friend or family member to collect you.

  • If you’re involved in a crash you’ll be breathalysed – don’t risk it.

  • A drinking session the night before can easily put you over the legal limit the following morning. Organise alternative travel plans for the next day.

  • If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let them drive – and definitely don’t let them give you a lift home.


Killer fact 
Drink a pint of strong lager and it’ll take up to three hours before you can drive; a couple of large glasses of wine and it can be up to eight hours.

The Law 
Driving, or attempting to drive while affected by drink, or with excess drink in your system leads to a minimum 12-month ban, which becomes three years if you’re caught twice within 10 years. You can face either six months in the slammer or a £5000 fine, and in more serious cases, both. You’ll also have between three and 11 points slapped on your licence.

Too much alcohol means anything over 80mg of booze per 100ml of blood, something which would be tested at the station after an initial breath test. Refusal to provide a sample, unless there’s medical proof that you can’t, has the same punishments as providing samples above the legal limit – although driving bans can often be six months longer, as an extra deterrent for trying to pull a fast one. Kill someone due to drink driving and you face ten years behind bars and an unlimited fine.