Even the world’s greatest drivers need to know when to leave the car keys on the side and dial for a cab instead. Calculating risk is all part of the motor trade, but this is a risk that’s never worth taking: driving under the influence is dangerous for you and other road users. But not everyone is completely clear on what the legal quantities are for driving after alcohol, so read on to make sure that you know your limits.
Your reaction times are critical when in control of a vehicle, and they are significantly impaired after having a drink. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows your body and all its functions down; this means your eyes notice things more slowly, your brain processes them more slowly, and your foot gets the message to brake more slowly. Not only that, but your judgement will be impaired, so that driving in the wrong lane or at a faster speed somehow seems a good idea. It’s not.
For these reasons, there is a legal limit to how much alcohol can be in your bloodstream when you’re driving. In England and Wales, the maximum is 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath (just 22mg in Scotland), or 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (50mg in Scotland). Anything above these numbers and you’re breaking the law.
But how does this translate to glasses of wine or pints of beer? There is no simple answer. The way the body absorbs alcohol depends on the type of alcohol you’re drinking, your age, weight, stress levels, the food you’ve been eating (or not), your sex, and your metabolism, amongst other factors. The safest thing to do if you’ll be drinking is to make plans to use public transport, a taxi, a designated driver, or make plans to stay overnight close by. Plan ahead so you’re not tempted to “just” take the car instead.
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Police are within their rights to test anyone with a roadside breathalyser. They are likely to check anyone driving erratically, but even more conservative drivers may be tested randomly during certain periods (such as Christmas, when drink-driving rates increase). Lorries, people carriers, Ferraris, new and used cars, vehicles on trade plates and transit vans: nobody is exempt.
The consequences of drink-driving include a fine of up to £5,000, a minimum of 12 months’ driving ban, between 3 and 11 points on your licence, and a prison sentence of up to 6 months. Any future insurance policy is also likely to sky-rocket. The consequences of drink-driving can also include accidental death, for the driver, passengers and other road users, so opt for ginger beer or book yourself a taxi instead.