Christmas drink driving limits: How many units are allowed when driving a car in the UK?

As festivities get underway, people may be looking to get themselves home from Christmas drinks by getting behind the wheel of a car – but this could be a huge mistake

Make sure you know the rules this Christmas
Make sure you know the rules this Christmas

For many across the UK, the holiday period is a time for relaxation, a special time of year when the normal rules and rhythms of day-to-day life don’t really seem to apply.

While for some this sentiment may echo as an opportunity for a bit of time off work and an indulgence in a little too much festivity, others may see it as an opportunity to push the limits of what’s legal.

But the same rules as ever still apply when it comes to the road, with no special allowances for people drunk behind the wheel just because they’ve got their Christmas jumper on.

Despite this, the drink driving numbers in December always tend to be higher. In 2018, Auto Express reported that 8.5% of all drink driving offences occurred in December.

How many units can you drink and drive in the UK?

Drink driving is never a good idea

Generally speaking, drinking two pints of regular-strength lager at around 2.3 units each will put you comfortably over the limit, as would two ciders or two 125ml glasses of wine.

This is only guidance and varies from person-to-person, so read on for the full legal limits.

The rules for what you’re allowed to drink varies depending on where in the country you are, with different rules for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

  • In England: 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • In Wales: 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath
  • In Northern Ireland: 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine
  • In Scotland: 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, or 67 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

Scotland’s rules changed in 2014, seeing the limit lowered with one drink potentially becoming enough to tip you over the line.

Despite this, it is always safer to steer well clear of the drink if you plan on getting behind the wheel. Alcohol can affect everyone differently and so what’s ok for one person may not be ok for another.

Being under the legal limit is also no guarantee that you are safe to drive, and it is still possible for alcohol to impair your driving skills.

The Sun reports that people with only 10mg of alcohol in their system per 100ml – which is an eighth of England and Wales’ legal limit – are 37% more likely to be in a fatal accident than people with non.

What is the maximum driving ban for drink driving?

If your drink driving leads to death then you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years, while some people caught drunk behind the wheel who haven’t had an accident can still be charged £2,500, lose their licence and potentially face a spell behind bars of up to six months.

However, the final decision will be made by the magistrates and is dependent on the offence that has been committed.

Sentences for repeat offenders can be far worse: if you have been convicted twice in the last 10 years the minimum jail sentence for being drunk behind the wheel can be increased to three years.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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