Man in car after being caught drink driving
Back to Tips and Guides

A guide to drink drive limits

If you drive when you’ve had a drink, the reality is that you’re putting your life and the lives of others at risk. But how much is too much, and are you okay to get behind the wheel after a couple of pints or glasses of wine? This guide will explain all.

What is the drink drive limit?

The drink drive limit for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland[1] is:

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath
  • 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine

The drink drive limit in Scotland[2] is:

  • 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath
  • 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 67mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine

How many units…?

One alcohol unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average person can process in an hour.

A pint typically contains one or two units, while a glass of wine contains one and a half to three. How much alcohol is in your drink depends on the strength of what you’re drinking and the size of the glass.

What does the drink drive limit mean for me?

Everyone’s body is different and the rate at which your body will absorb the alcohol you’ve drunk will be unique to you. It depends on factors like your weight, sex, age, metabolism, your stress levels, what you’ve eaten recently, what you’ve been drinking and the amount you’ve drank.

To be totally safe, you should avoid driving altogether in the hours after you’ve had any amount of alcohol. If you chance it and you are found to be over the drink drive limit, there could be serious consequences.

What are the penalties[3] for drink driving?

It will be the magistrates in the court who will decide on the severity of your punishment.

If you’re stopped by the police and refuse to give a sample (breath, blood or urine), you could receive six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and be banned from driving for at least a year.

If you’re in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you could end up in prison for three months, be banned from driving and be fined up to £2,500.

If you are caught driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you could end up in prison for six months, be banned from driving for a minimum of a year and face an unlimited fine. If it’s your second drink driving conviction within ten years, you will be banned for three years.

If you are convicted of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol, you will face as much as 14 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a driving ban of at least two years and must sit an extended driving test before your driving licence is returned.

How will drink driving affect my car insurance?

Your car insurance costs may increase significantly if you have any drink driving convictions[4]. You must ensure that your car is still insured while you’re banned from driving or declare it SORN. Once you’re able to drive again, you will need to inform your insurer, who will tell you how much extra you need to pay to stay insured with them.

Your policy costs could increase, because you’ll be classed as being a high-risk driver, which means that you’re more likely to have a crash or accident. You may also have to pay a higher compulsory excess[5] if you need to make a claim in the future. Some insurers won’t insure drivers who have had a drink driving conviction, so you might need to shop around for a quote.

You must declare a drink driving conviction for up to five years (depending on the insurer)[6]. Some driving convictions will stay on your licence for up to 11 years[7], so you’ll be affected in the long term.