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Drink driving at Christmas - don't do it!

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 18 December 2015
  2. Cars and Motoring
  3. 0 comments
Drink driving

Drinking and being merry is great and all, but an unfortunate side effect of all this merriment is the spectre of drunk driving, the shadow of which always looms larger at Christmas.

Drink driving is a serious crime which costs lives. Even if you don’t cause any harm by drink driving, you could ruin your own life.

How do I avoid drink driving?

The obvious and safest answer is to not drink anything before you drive – if you are going to a Christmas party or another occasion where you will be drinking, have a plan ahead of time for how you will get home, whether by public transport, taxi or designated driver.

Any amount of alcohol is going to affect your reaction times and ability to process information on the move, so it really isn’t worth the risk, no matter how well you think you handle your drink.

How your body processes alcohol depends on a number of different factors too, so an amount that would keep you under the limit on one day might take you over the limit on another.

You can read more about this on the NHS website.

What is the law on drink driving?

A police officer can give a breath test to anyone who is driving or attempting to drive a vehicle if they believe they have been drinking, or that they have committed a driving offence or been involved in an accident.

This means that you can be charged with drink driving even if you aren’t sat in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to be in the car to be tested either – if a police officer finds you staggering around in the pub car park with your keys, they are within their rights to give you a breath test if they suspect you have been drinking.

The legal limit in the UK is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, except in Scotland, which has a lower limit of 22 micrograms.

In some circumstances, you may be requested to take a blood or urine test as well as or instead of a breath test – for example, if you blow 40-50 micrograms, the police are required to offer you the option of giving a blood or urine specimen. If you refuse this offer, the breath sample will be used.

Refusing to give a sample is also a serious offence, with similar punishments to those handed down for the more serious drink driving offences.

You may be able to escape punishment if you are charged with refusing to provide a sample, but you will need a very good reason.

What’s the punishment?

If you are found guilty of drink driving, you will be hit with one or more of the following punishments:

  • penalty points – anywhere from 3 to eleven
  • a fine – depending on the crime, up to £2,500 or even unlimited
  • a ban from driving
  • prison time

For more information, check our drink driving section or our table of driving offences.

Should the drink driving limit be lowered?

The drink driving limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is among the highest in Europe, with only Malta having a higher limit.

The drink driving limit in Scotland was lowered a year ago, and statistics seem to indicate that it has helped to lower drink driving. Since the limit was reduced, drink driving offences in Scotland have fallen by 12.5%, almost double the fall across the rest of the UK.

A survey released at the beginning of the month indicated that two-thirds of drivers who admit to drink driving would not do so if the limit was limited to match the limit of Scotland. A letter to the Guardian from a group of concerned individuals added that lowering the limit could save as many as 170 lives a year.

“In light of evidence from across Europe and emerging evidence from Scotland, it is high time that the government took decisive action to protect the safety of drivers across the UK,” said they.

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