Drink driving laws explained: the UK limits, how the rules work and how long a ban offenders can get

Drink driving laws explained: the UK limits, how the rules work and how long a ban offenders can get
Drink driving laws explained: the UK limits, how the rules work and how long a ban offenders can get

Each year Christmas sees a spike in the number of drivers caught breaking the UK’s drink driving laws.

New figures show that not only is December the worst month for drink-drive offences but that convictions are increasing year on year.

Data also shows that drink-drive-related deaths have reached an eight-year high and with Christmas just around the corner police and safety campaigners will soon be launching seasonal campaigns driving home the message that drink-driving is dangerous and unacceptable.

Yet it appears many motorists are still confused by or ignorant of the laws around drink driving.

Read more: Drink-drivers in the UK will be offered a device to stop cars starting when they’re over the limit

So what is the drink-drive limit?

The maximum blood alcohol limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

In Scotland, it is 50mg/100ml blood, in line with much of mainland Europe.

There are plans to lower it to the Scottish level in Northern Ireland but the UK Government does not have any plan to reduce the limit in England and Wales.

Recent research has suggested that  the lower limit in Scotland has not reduced related casualties since it was introduced in 2014.

Read more: Backing for lower drink-drive limit in England as drivers warned over morning-after risks

What are the penalties?

The exact punishment is down to the courts but you can be fined, banned and even jailed if found guilty of drink driving. In Scotland you can also have your car seized.

Different offences attract different penalties, with the Government offering the following guidelines:

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 (up to £5,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)
  • Forced to resit the driving test (Northern Ireland)

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

You may get:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine (Up to £5,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • a ban from driving for at least 1 year
  • Forced to resit the test (NI)

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
  • Forced to sit an extended driving test before your licence is returned

Read more: More than 20 million Britons accept lifts from drunk drivers

You may be able to reduce your ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) course if you’re banned from driving for 12 months or more. It’s up to the court to offer this.

In England, Wales and Scotland, you will not automatically have your licence returned after a ban if the court deems you to be a high-risk offender.

 

 

 

 

 

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