Drink driving – How much alcohol is too much?

Whilst in the UK there is some tolerance to having a very small amount of alcohol in your system when driving, the only sure fire way to stay safe is not to drink at all when driving.

The same rule ought to apply to drinking the night before you need to drive – the only real way to be sure of being under the drink-drive limit and fit to drive is to not drink at all the night before. It is all too easy to get behind the wheel the day after a drinking session and be over the limit.

According to the charity drinkaware, broadly speaking alcohol is removed from the blood at the rate of about one unit every hour but this varies from person to person.

Risk of collision, accident and injury are increased for you and others if you drive when under the influence of alcohol and punishments are severe.

Punishments for drink driving

Barring a very few and extremely rare legal loophole style exceptions, anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit will face a driving ban regardless of any mitigating circumstances. Drivers will be banned from driving for at least 12 months, potentially much longer, face an unlimited fine and could be jailed.

If you are suspected of drink-driving you will likely be asked to provide a breath sample at the roadside. If this appears positive you will be requested to give another sample at the police station or your blood may be tested. Refusing to provide a sample carries similar penalties to drink-driving and will almost certainly result in a driving ban too.

What are the drink-drive alcohol limits?

The drink-drive limits in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are:

  • 35 micrograms in 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine

In Scotland the limits are even lower:

  • 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 50 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 67 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine

Any amount of alcohol could put you over these limits. The amount of alcohol that remains in someone’s system depends on factors such as their weight, age, sex and personal metabolism, whether you have eaten and how much, stress levels and so on.

Around Christmas and New Year, police tend to carry out an increasing number of spot checks to identify drink-drivers as it is a time of year where alcohol is known to cause more issues than ever both in relation to motoring and many other things.

The dangers of Christmas drinking are demonstrated in this infographic from addiction support service Port of Call:


How much damage does Christmas drinking do?
Provided by Port of Call