Be aware: do you know the new drink driving laws?

New drink drive rules in Scotland are a good reminder for all UK residents to brush up on the laws in their region and review the penalties for driving over the legal limit.

What’s the law?

The drink drive limits vary depending on which country you’re in within the UK. Scotland has recently reduced the limit, Northern Ireland has new legislation underway, and both England and Wales are expected to follow suit in the coming years.


  • The limit: 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood


  • The limit: 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood


  • The new limit: 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood
  • Effective from: 5 December 2014

Northern Ireland

  • The current limit: 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood
  • The proposed new limit: 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood
  • New limit expected to be effective from: Early 2015

How much can I drink and stay under the limit?

The idea that you can drink a certain number of units and be OK to drive after an hour is a commonly repeated myth. The truth is that alcohol affects people differently, depending on a range of factors, such as:

  • Type of alcohol (ales are often stronger than larger, for example)
  • Weight/size (smaller people have a lower blood volume and therefore are more affected by alcohol than larger people)
  • Gender (women are typically smaller, contain more body fat and have less body water than men, resulting in higher blood alcohol concentration)
  • Water intake (if you’re dehydrated, your blood alcohol concentration is likely to be higher)
  • Food intake (you absorb alcohol quicker on an empty stomach)

Under Scotland’s new law, which reduces the limit from 80mg to 50mg, driving after enjoying just one small glass of wine or a pint of beer may be illegal. Although people were once advised to allow one hour to pass for each unit of alcohol they drank, experts now advise that there is no safe way to calculate the “right time” to drive after consuming alcohol. There are simply too many variables at play.

What happens if I get caught drink driving?

The potential penalties for drink driving in the UK are as follows:

  • Six months’ imprisonment
  • Up to £5,000 fine
  • A driving ban for at least one year (three years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Of course, the biggest danger of all is the possibility of injuring or killing yourself, a passenger or other road users. Causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence can result in up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Easy ways to be responsible this holiday season

‘Tis the season for eating, drinking and being merry. And whilst it’s easy to get caught-up in the festive spirit, it’s important to remember the consequences of drink driving. To avoid the legal penalties – or worse, harming yourself or others – be smart this holiday season.

  • Add a cab service to your phone contacts – Calling a cab after a night out is easy if you make it as convenient as possible. Give your future self no excuses by adding the number of a taxi company to your phone contacts.
  • Don’t forget about public transport – Whether it’s a city bus, a tram or the Tube, if your city has a public transport network, look at timetables and plan your journey before you head out. Many cities now have smartphone apps that show you when the next bus or tram is leaving from your nearest stop.
  • Walk to your local – If your village pub is less than mile away with well-lit streets and pavement for pedestrians, then bundle up and travel home by foot. People often think it’s OK to drink drive if it’s only a short distance, but the reality is that one in three car accidents occur within a mile from home.
  • Be polite, but firm with your party guests – If you’re entertaining this Christmas season, you have a certain level of responsibility as host. A brief moment of awkward conversation, where you insist on ordering a cab for your guest, is better than a lifetime of regret.
  • Don’t rely on the promises of ‘designated drivers’ – Even the most well-intentioned designated drivers are capable of changing their minds halfway through a night out. In case the person you were relying on to stay sober decides to drink, make sure to have a backup plan in place, such as calling a cab or taking the bus.

Are tougher drink drive laws an effective way to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents?

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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Assistant Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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