December 7, 2018

Drink Driving Rules For The Festive Season

Drivers Three Times More Likely to be Breathalysed in December

Over 70,000 people are caught drink driving every year

As this year’s Christmas drink-drive campaign gets under way, it has emerged that drivers are nearly three times more likely to be breathalysed in December than in other months of the year.

Home Office figures show that police forces across England and Wales conducted 63,648 roadside breath tests last December – 20% of the annual total.

The December figure was also approximately three times higher than the monthly average of 23,840. And the number of motorists found to be over the drink drive limit last December, including those who refused the test, was 4,816 – a failure rate of nearly 8%.

Many drivers were caught still feeling the effects of the previous evening’s over-indulgence with nearly a fifth of drink-drive convictions happening the morning after the night before. A third of all breath tests after an accident are conducted between 7am and 1pm.

Drink Driving Guide

How big is the drink driving problem?

Despite 30 years of drink drive education and enforcement, some 200-plus people are still killed in drink drive accidents every year and more than 70,000 people are still caught drink driving annually

The insurance comparison website,, has published data showing that more drink-drive offences were detected last December than in any other month of 2017.

Freedom of Information requests to UK police forces by revealed that 5,551 drivers were caught driving over the legal alcohol limit during December 2017 – a daily average of 179 drivers and slightly higher than the Home Office figures.

At the same time, statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show an increase in casualties and incidents caused by drink driving, while there has been no improvement in drink driving related deaths since 2010.

Campaigners have called on the Government to lower the drink-drive limit in England and Wales in line with those of Scotland and the rest of Europe in a bid to reduce drink-related accidents and fatalities.

What are the legal limits?

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine. This is the highest in Europe.

At the end of 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland was reduced to 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood and 22mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, and there was a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in the first nine months of the new limit.

In most other European countries, the limit is lower than the UK and in line with Scotland, typically 50mg per 100ml of blood or less.

Why is alcohol such a problem?

People who drive at twice the current legal alcohol level are at least 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash.

Many of the functions that we depend on to drive safely are affected when we drink alcohol:

  • the brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
  • processing information becomes more difficult
  • instructions to the body’s muscles are delayed resulting in slower reaction times.

You can also experience blurred and double vision, which affects your ability to see things clearly while you are driving. And you’re more likely to take potentially dangerous risks because you can act on urges you normally repress .

What are the drink driving penalties?

Anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit when driving or attempting to drive will be banned from driving for at least 12 months, of three years if convicted twice in 10 years, face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

All these factors – the length of imprisonment, period of disqualification, size of fine and related penalty points – depend on the severity of the offence.

Being in charge of a vehicle whilst over the legal limit or unfit through drink could result in three months in prison plus a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible driving ban.

The penalty for refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis is a maximum of six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a driving ban of at least 12 months.

If the worst should happen, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine and a minimum two year driving ban. There is also a requirement to pass an extended driving test before the offender is able to drive legally again.

An endorsement for a drink driving offence remains on a driving licence for 11 years, so it is 11 years before a convicted driver will have a “clean” licence again.

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

At CLM, we have produced a guide to drink and drug driving which can be downloaded free of charge here.

Drink Driving Guide