Tis the season to be Breathalysed – the Dangers of Drink Driving

Dangers of Drink Driving

During the busy period for socialising between now and the end of the year, the risk of being over the drink drive limit – including the morning after drinking alcohol – is perhaps at its greatest.

It can be tempting to drive home after ‘just one’ drink, but the reality is that any amount of alcohol can affect your judgement or ability to drive safely. You could also still be over the limit driving to work the morning after the office Christmas party.

Alcohol doesn’t only affect our ability to drive cars and vehicles on the road but can affect how we operate dangerous machinery and workplace transport including forklift trucks and other machinery.

While many people understand the dangers of drink and drug driving, there is still a minority of people who think that drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car is safe.

Increased police patrols in December

Police forces across the UK will be carrying out extra patrols and roadside checks, targeting drink drivers and anyone considering driving the morning after consuming alcohol.

Officers will breathalyse drivers following a road traffic collision, a moving traffic offence or when drink driving is suspected. Drug impairment tests are also used to identify those who have taken controlled drugs before getting behind the wheel.

Patrols are also conducted around the clock, meaning motorists who use their vehicle the morning after a big night out can still be caught for drink driving.

On average, it takes the liver about one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. This means that after a night of moderate to heavy drinking, the levels of alcohol in the body could still be high enough to reduce a person’s ability to think clearly and make decisions.

Many drivers do not realise that they can still be over the drink drive limit from alcohol consumed the previous evening, even after a night’s sleep.

The Morning-after Calculator is a useful tool, designed to give you an idea as to how much alcohol is still in your system, and how long it typically takes to leave your body, indicating when you might be safe to drive but please note this is only an indication.

Those who provide positive breathalyser tests will face tough penalties including:

  • A minimum of a 12-month disqualification for anyone convicted of drink driving, as well as a fine of up to £5,000 and six months in prison. Those convicted will also gain a criminal record and penalty points on their licence for 10 years. Their insurance costs will increase dramatically, hiring a car will become all but impossible and entry to some foreign countries denied.
  • Even being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol in the body could result in a prison sentence of up to three months, a driving ban and a fine of up to £2,500.
  • Causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of alcohol can result in a prison term of up to 14 years.

View our factsheet which explains the 4  endorsement codes used to classify drink driving offences.

The legal alcohol limit for driving is 35 micrograms per 100ml of breath, or 80 milligrams per 100ml of blood but any alcohol will impair the ability to drive. However, it is impossible to calculate the amount a person can drink and remain under the drink drive limit as this will vary from person to person and a number of other factors including gender, weight and age. So the only safe limit is none.

Research has proven that any amount of alcohol can affect safe driving performance – drivers with just 10mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, far below current drink drive limits, are 46% more likely to be at fault in collisions than sober drivers [1], and when they crash, do more damage than sober drivers [2].

Suggested alternatives to drink driving: 

  • If you have to take the car, make sure you stick to non-alcoholic drinks rather than having one glass of wine or a pint of beer and hoping you’ll be under the legal limit – you can’t calculate your limit so don’t try to.
  • Take it in turns for one of your party to be the designated driver on nights out.
  • Leave the car at home and use public transport or take a registered taxi – why not pre-book one with a reputable company before you go out.
  • Stick to soft drinks – it tends to be a cheaper alternative as well as helping you avoid that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling.

Read our Drink Driving factsheet for more tips on how to avoid putting yourself and others at risk of accident.


[1] Official blame for drivers with very low blood alcohol content, British Medical Journal, 2014

[2] The relationship between serious injury and blood alcohol concentration, University of California San Diego, 2011