Drink Driving Laws Explained 

Driving whilst drunk is the most dangerous thing you can do behind the wheel of a car. Doing so puts your life and the lives of others in serious danger and constitutes one of the most serious infractions drivers can commit. Don’t let it be you who makes headlines for all the wrong reasons – the UK drink driving limit exists for a reason and it isn’t worth breaking the rules for the sake of a cheeky extra pint. 

Here we explain the ins and outs of the UK’s drink driving laws, including how much alcohol is too much to drive. 

What is the UK drink drive limit?

Government messaging on the UK drink drive limit is very clear. In England, Scotland and Wales the drink drive limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which translates to 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. In Scotland the rules are slightly different. North of the border drivers are over the limit if they have 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. 

So, in layman’s terms, how much can you drink and still be safe to drive?

One of the most frequently asked questions about the UK drink drive limit is “how many pints can you have and drive?” Is two pints of beer over the limit? Is a glass or two of wine okay? And does drinking with a meal – potentially over a longer period of time – make it safer to drink and drive? 

Unfortunately the answer isn’t straightforward, so it’s best to be hyper-cautious if you’re unsure. The way alcohol affects our systems depends on a variety of factors including our weight, age, gender, medical profile, and the speed of our metabolism. Two pints of regular strength lager or a medium-sized glass of Chardonnay might be enough to put someone over the limit, but for some people they might not. Get to know your tolerances around alcohol and don’t get behind the wheel if you’re unsure. 

Know your limits

It’s worth reiterating that alcohol affects individuals in different ways. Therefore it’s best to know your own limits and act accordingly. The amount you can drink and drive is down to the individual as long as you don’t exceed the legal limits detailed above. If you feel light-headed after just one pint, that’s probably too much. And if in doubt, don’t drink and drive at all. The penalties you could face for breaching UK drink driving laws can be severe, and it isn’t worth risking your life and those of others for the sake of a couple of drinks.

A final word of advice: nominate a designated driver

There isn’t a time when you shouldn’t be cautious about drinking and driving, but it’s particularly important to be careful during the Christmas party season when people might try to pressure you into having one tipple too many. If you’re out on the town enjoying a few drinks, the safest way to avoid falling foul of the UK’s drink driving laws is to nominate a designated driver, take public transport or book a cab. That way you can enjoy yourself safe in the knowledge that you won’t be waking up in custody or hospital the next morning – or, heaven forbid, not waking up at all. 

Whatever the occasion, heed our advice – know your own drinking boundaries and don’t exceed the legal drink driving limit. You may live to regret it if you get behind the wheel after having had one drink too many.