Legal Eagle: What is the law on drink-driving in the UK and how do you safely stay below the limit?

As the last bank holiday Monday of the year draws near, Mancunians across the city are busy making plans to maximise their time off.

Whether it be a BBQ, a trip to the local beer garden or a day out, it is expected that many will be drinking and trying to make the most of the British summer.

And it will also be a time when motorist’s lives are put at risk by drink drivers.

In 2012, the Department of Transport’s Annual report revealed that more than 1,200 people were seriously injured because of drink drivers and an alarming 280 people were killed in drink driving accidents.

But how much is too much? And what are the consequences of being caught drink driving?

Thanks to the new partnership with Olliers Solicitors, a leading criminal law firm based in Manchester, MM can shed some light on drink driving.

What is the law on drink driving?

In the UK, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

How much can I drink and stay under the limit?

There is no sure way of drinking and staying below the legal limit.

Some drivers rely on online calculators or their latest mobile phone apps to tell them if they are good to drive when in fact these are only rough estimates of your alcohol level at any given time.

The amount of alcohol you would need to drink to be considered over the driving limit varies from person to person and there are a number of relevant factors such as your weight, your gender (men tend to process alcohol faster than women) and your metabolism.

It can also be affected by the type and amount you’re drinking, your current stress levels, whether you’ve eaten recently and your age, as younger people tend to process alcohol more slowly.

At Olliers, we traditionally receive a huge increase in calls from motorists charged with various motoring offences such as drink driving, failing to provide a specimen, drunk in charge, drug driving and careless/dangerous driving.  

This is largely because we are not the only organisation expecting a rise in work over such weekends as the police force prepare for these times as well, often launching large-scale campaigns to catch drivers who should not be on the road.

What is the punishment if I get caught drink driving?

Anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit when driving will be banned for at least 12 months, and receive a level five fine which is anything up to £5,000.

The length of the disqualification is largely determined by your alcohol level but any previous offences will also be taken into account and in more serious cases you may be facing up to six months in prison.

If you’re caught drink driving more than once in a 10 year period, you’ll be banned for at least three years and if it’s your second offence within three years then you could be facing an immediate custodial penalty.

How to prevent drink driving?

It’s a good idea to have a designated driver of any group of friends and possibly rotate who this person is between you when each night out/event comes around. That way on any night out you will know that you all have a way to get home safely.

If there are good public transport links in your area use them and always try and remember to put some money aside in case you have to take a taxi home.

It’s so easy to spend the contents of your wallet/purse and leave yourself short at the end of the night and you don’t want something like this to be your persuasion to drive home.

We appreciate that many drivers across the country are well aware of their own limits, however, we advise all drivers to err on the side of caution.

It goes without saying that the best rule to follow is… if you’re going to have a drink, leave the keys at home.

To get your law questions answered by Olliers’ Legal Eagle, all you need to do is email your legal question to newsdesk (at)

Image courtesy of West Midlands Police, with thanks

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