Drink driving; it’s a pretty serious offence and if caught can land you in the deep end with the law. In our recent survey on drivers and drink driving in the United Kingdom, almost half had said they have knowingly driven whilst over the limit, a worrying figure!
The scenario goes, you’ve had a few drinks and think you’re sober enough to drive, you think the alcohol hasn’t had an effect but you’d be wrong, even small amounts of alcohol affect the way we drive. Legally you can drive if you’ve consumed a certain amount of alcohol, but the best, and foolproof advice we can give is to avoid drinking and driving at all costs, even if under the limit. The repercussions for driving over the limit are very serious, it’s bad enough to be arrested but even worse, someone could get seriously injured or killed as a result of drink driving. 4
Did you know on average 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured in the UK each year from drink driving collisions? This figure has been dramatically reduced in the past 35 years thanks to new laws on drink driving in the UK but the figure is still too high.
What are the laws on drink driving in the United Kingdom?
Drink driving laws in the United Kingdom vary; England, Wales and Northern Ireland follow a common law and approach on drink driving, Scotland, on the other hand, follows a different, stricter approach to drink driving. In Jefferies’ recent survey, 82% of people believe England, Wales & Northern Ireland should adopt Scotland’s zero-tolerance policy to drink driving.
What are the laws in England, Wales & Northern Ireland?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the drink driving limits are 80 milligrammes of alcohol in your body for every 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath and 107 milligrammes for every 100 millilitres of urine. The laws in England, Wales & NI are considered to be quite lenient are more tolerant compared Scotland and the majority of European countries.
What is the law in Scotland on drink driving?
Scotland has much tougher laws on the drink driving than the other countries in the United Kingdom, Scotland follows similar laws to most other European countries and adopts a zero-tolerance policy, a policy most people believe the rest of the UK should take on board.
In 2014 the laws on drink driving in Scotland changed with the Scottish government stating this is to reflect the common law in other European countries and to make Scotland’s roads safer.
The limits in Scotland now are; 50 milligrammes of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood in your body, 22 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath & 67 millilitres of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of urine.
How does alcohol affect driving?
You’d be surprised how alcohol can affect your driving; a small amount can have an effect, even if not that noticeable! As you’ll probably know, alcohol is a depressant drug. It slows down the activity of the central nervous system, including the brain. In turn, this slows down your reactions and judgements.
Some of the ways alcohol can affect your driving are:
- Impaired vision
- Reduced reaction times
- Reduced concentration and vigilance
- Feeling of being drowsy
- Overconfidence, leading to risk-taking.
- Affect your judgement of speed and distance
- Reduce coordination
The effects of alcohol can last a while as well. If you go out drinking in the evening you may not be fit to drive your car the next morning. Measuring the amount of time before you’re ready to drive can be tricky, this depends on a few factors and varies from person-to-person. Generally, a safe guideline to follow would be to not drive until 12 hours after you finish drinking alcohol, but as mentioned, this does vary for each individual and the amount of alcohol consumed.
You should also remember there’s no way to sober up fast; everyone has their own ‘tricks’ on sobering up faster, even if we do feel more sober in ourselves, the effects of alcohol will still be prominent. Tips such as getting fresh air, taking a shower, drinking coffee or drinking water are just myths on sobering up and shouldn’t be looked at as fact, especially when considering driving.
The effects of alcohol are also still noticeable when hungover, in particular, individuals will find it much harder to concentrate whilst driving with a hangover.
How can I stay within the legal limit?
There’s no sure way or answer to staying in the legal limit as it depends on each person. There are ways of measuring alcohol and this does depend on the person but even so, alcohol affects everyone in different ways. Some factors that can determine the effect of alcohol on an individual are:
- Stress levels
- Type of alcohol
- Whether you’ve eaten
What’s the punishment for drink driving?
The punishment for drink driving can be quite severe as it’s a serious offence. The repercussions if caught are most certainly not worth the cheap ride home. If pulled over, fail a breathalyser test and are then found guilty of drink driving you could get:
- Up to 6 months in prison
- An unlimited fine
- A driving ban for a minimum of 12 months
- A criminal record
These could all seriously affect other areas in your life in the future such as getting credit, getting a job, emigrating or visiting countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan and many more countries outside of the EU.
How to avoid drink driving
There are many ways to avoid drink driving, making plans before your night out would be one of the most sensible and making sure you have money and arrangements to get back home. Some of our best tips on getting home are:
- Getting a taxi home
- Taking public transport
- Taken home by someone who isn’t drinking
- Being picked up by a family member or friend
Statistics on drink driving in the UK
Luckily drink driving in the UK is on a downwards slope and has been for the past 35 years, reducing by about three quarters since the 70’s. This is excellent news but the figure for drink driving fatalities and serious injuries is still too high.
- There are on average 3,000 fatalities and serious injuries as a result of drink driving in the UK each year.
- Nearly one in six deaths on the roads are as a result of drink driving.
- The main group that drink driving occurs across is young men aged 17-29, this is for both casualties and breathalyser tests. Drink driving awareness campaigns are usually aimed at this demographic.
- More than half a million breathalyser tests are carried out each year and around 100,000 of these are failed.
Jefferies Solicitors recently conducted a survey of drink drivers in the UK and some of the results that we received back were surprising.
- 43% of everyone surveyed said they had knowingly driven over the limit.
- 21% of people surveyed believe there were techniques for sobering up fast, some of these are common myths that include getting fresh air, drinking coffee, drinking water and taking a shower.
- One-third of all surveyed admit to drink-driving on more than one occasion.
- The 25-34 age group said that they found the unit measuring system to be confusing.
- 71% of Jaguar owners admitted to knowingly driven over the limit, the highest of all the car owner groups, with Audi car owners following in second at 57%.
- 45% of Londoners said they have never driven over the limit, the worst in the UK. Plymouth appeared to be the safest city in the UK with 67% saying they have never driven over the limit.
- 82% of people in England believe that England should adopt Scotland’s zero-tolerance policy to drink driving. Scotland’s drink driving policy is more reflective of European laws than the rest of the UK seen in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To see the full results of this survey see our recent blog on the UK’s drink-driving habits.
What if I get caught drink driving?
Here at Jefferies, we offer a service for drink driving related offences, these alcohol-related offences fall into numerous categories including driving with excess alcohol, failing an alcohol test (whether that to be blood, breath or urine), being in charge of a vehicle after consuming excess alcohol and driving whilst unfit.
The most straightforward of these cases will involve being stopped at the roadside, taken to the nearest available police station and being detained before charge and release. In most cases, people are kept in a cell overnight or at least until the alcohol in their system reduces sufficiently to trigger release from custody.
Alcohol cases can be complex, though, involving further testing, unreliable breath testing equipment, a variety of requirements for samples and procedural anomalies, all of which should be thoroughly investigated. In most cases, we will instruct at least one expert.
One thing to take from alcohol cases is that not every alcohol-related charge results in a conviction. There are many factors that can affect drink driving cases and we prove daily that clients should not be convicted for a variety of reasons. We defend many cases here at Jefferies Solicitors and we win many of those defended in light of our arguments being entirely valid; if we were to proceed to trial it is on the basis that we expect to win.
If you’ve been involved in a drink driving offence and need representation or legal assistance in this area then phone Jefferies Solicitors free on 0800 342 3206 for free impartial advice, or complete an online form and one of our advisors will be in contact with you shortly.