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Drink driving: When is it safe to drive after drinking the night before?


Drink drivingGETTY

When is it safe to drive after drinking the night before? How long does alcohol stay in your system?

As the year begins to wind down and festive celebrations drivers are being

Police forces across the UK have launched campaigns and crackdowns on drink driving over the festive period as a warning and deterrent to driver tempted to risk it. 

Across England and Wales ‘intelligence-led’ operations to target motorists run between December 1st and New Year’s Day. 

Anthony Bangham, National Police Chiefs Council lead for roads policing, said: “Every year police forces deal with cases of drink or drug driving that directly result in families facing Christmas without loved ones.

“Yet thousands of people still get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs – so this year we are supporting forces who want to tell the personal stories of lives lost and families torn apart.

“Our recent operations have shown higher rates of detection for drugs and alcohol than in recent years, which means the scale of the problem is still a real concern.”

What some driver are perhaps unaware of or don’t consider the implications of driving the next morning after drinking the night before. 


It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body

Inspector Jamie Langwith, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts Road Policing Unit


Road safety charity Brake revealed that one in five drivers admit to getting behind the wheel the morning after a heavy night of drinking. 

According to Drinkaware’s chief medical adviser, Dr Paul Wallace, the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream depends on three things:

• The amount you take in

• Over what period of time

• The speed at which your body gets rid of it.

Inspector Jamie Langwith, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts Road Policing Unit, said to Luton Today: “It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body and because of this there is a real risk that people who would not dream of driving after drinking may still be unwittingly over the drink drive limit the morning after. 

“This includes people going about their everyday activities such as driving to work, doing the school run, popping to the shops or going to see friends. 

“We’re not saying don’t drink, but we are saying don’t drink anything if you are driving, and don’t drink heavily if you have to drive the following morning.”

According to the DVLA the way alcohol affects you depends on:

• your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy)

• the type and amount of alcohol you’re drinking

• what you’ve eaten recently

• your stress levels at the time

According to information on the NHS website it takes around one hour to break down one unit of alcohol. 

As a rough guide, the NHS suggest that one unit is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:

2.1 units in a standard glass (175ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

3 units in a large glass (250ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

2 units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)

3 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)

1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25ml)

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the drink drive limit is as follows:

-Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath: 35

-Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood: 80

-Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine: 107

If a driver fails to leave enough time after drinking before getting behind the wheel again, then they could still be prosecuted for drink driving.

Drink driving carries some serious and sever punishments. 

Drink drivingGETTY

Alcohol takes longer to leave your system than you would assume

Punishments for drink driving are as follows: 

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

•3 months’ imprisonment

•up to £2,500 fine

•a possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

•6 months’ imprisonment

•an unlimited fine

•a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis

You may get:

•6 months’ imprisonment

•an unlimited fine

•a ban from driving for at least 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink

You may get:

•14 years’ imprisonment

•an unlimited fine

•a ban from driving for at least 2 years

•an extended driving test before your licence is returned

You won’t automatically get your licence back if you’re a high risk offender.

Other punishments you could face:

A conviction for drink-driving also means:

•your car insurance costs will increase significantly

•if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence

•you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA



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