Focus on: Drink Driving

Drink Driving – What does it mean to you?

December sees the greatest number of drink drive-related incidents on the County’s roads.  So, what are the legal limits and how can we drink safely?

There is various legislation covering drink driving, and the law is constantly evolving as the government continues to clamp down on offenders.

The first drink driving legislation was back in 1872 with The Licensing Act making it an offence to be drunk while in charge of carriages, horses, cattle and steam engines!  The penalty was 40 shillings or imprisonment with, or without, hard labour for a term not exceeding one month.Drink Driving

Things moved on in 1968 when the UK saw the introduction of the breathalyser.  This decreased the percentage of road traffic accidents where alcohol had been a factor from 25% to 15% in the first year. There were 1,152 fewer recorded deaths, 11,177 fewer serious injuries and 28,130 fewer slight injuries caused by road traffic accidents.   The enforcement of this continues to reduce injury caused by drink driving, so you can understand why the penalties are so high.

If you are convicted for drink driving, some of the penalties are; a minimum 12 month driving ban, a criminal record, a fine of up to £5,000, and an endorsement on your license for 11 years.  Even being in charge of a vehicle with excess alcohol in the body could result in a prison sentence of up to three months, a driving ban and a fine of up to £2,500.  The everyday consequences stretch beyond this to:  an increase in car insurance, job loss, trouble getting in to countries like the USA, shame of having a criminal record, loss of independence, etc.

So, what are the parameters?

The current legal limitations are:

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

The above legal limitations are difficult to determine, so the quantities that were used back when the breathalyser was introduced are sometimes still quoted today:

Ie, Men can consume 4 units and women 3 units with a unit being equal to:

  • Small glass of wine (125ml)
  • Half pint of beer (3.5% vol) or
  • 25ml spirit

The Police, NHS and Think! advise that it is not possible to judge how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit. The above is unreliable and you are also affected by:

  • 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

Since 1968, many pubs have also increased the size of a small wine glass to 175ml or 250ml, spirit glass have increased to 35ml, and Beers have increased in their alcohol content with some bottled beers being 5.5%.

How does alcohol affect how we react?

Our brains rely on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes which help to transmit signals from one nerve to another.  Alcohol is a depressant which can disrupt that balance and affect our thoughts, feelings and actions.

With the first drink, the chemical changes take effect and start to depress the part of the brain we associate with inhibition.  We start to feel relaxed, more confident and less anxious.

But as more alcohol is consumed, the more depressed the neurotransmitters become resulting in a possible negative emotional response such as becoming angry, aggressive, anxious, paranoid or depressed.  Far from the pleasurable effects increasing, which may have been the initial intent.

Car Clinic - Drink Driving - brainThe other affect is on our memory and processing skills.  The more we consume, the more these are impaired.  After large quantities of alcohol the brain can stop recording into the ‘memory store’ resulting in waking up with a complete ‘blank’ as to what you said and even where you were.

The slow processing and depressed neurotransmitters narrow our perception and therefore takes us longer to respond to situations and hazards.  We also become braver with our actions.

Drinking alcohol (even just one drink) affects a person’s judgement and reduces their ability to see and hear things clearly.  These effects make it much more likely that the driver will be involved in an accident.  It is estimated that just one alcoholic drink can increase a driver’s thinking distance by up to 20%

How long do the effects last?

Alcohol takes time to leave the body.  An average adult takes an hour to process 10ml of pure alcohol (1 unit) so that there is none left in the bloodstream.  Eg, if you drink at lunchtime, you may be unfit to drive in the evening.  If you drink in the evening, you may be unfit to drive the next morning.

There is no quick way to sober up!  A stodgy breakfast may make you feel better as will drinking coffee, but it will do little to help the alcohol out of your system!

Alcohol in Festive Food!

It’s easy to forget whilst we are drinking, that some of the food we enjoy over Christmas is also laced with alcohol.  These are some examples of how the number of units quickly increases, without us realising!

Treat Alcohol Content No. of Units
Christmas Pudding 125ml (1/4 pint) port and 6 tbs brandy per pudding 2.7*
Sherry Trifle 125ml medium dry sherry and 50ml brandy per trifle 2.7*
Irish Coffee 4cl Irish whiskey (2 parts) per coffee 1.4
Christmas Cake 20ml of sherry or brandy per cake 0.4
Brandy Butter 15ml brandy per serving 0.3
Liqueur chololates 40 chocoltes will contain an average of 2tbsp liqueur 0.3
Rum sauce ½ teaspoon rum flavouring per serving 0.1

*0.7 per serving.  Source Esure insurance


Police patrols are increased throughout December operating around the clock, meaning motorists who use their vehicle the morning after a big night out can still be caught for drink driving.


Police advice is clear.  If you have to drink, take precautions to ensure you are not tempted to drive:

  • If you have to take the car, make sure you stick to non-alcoholic drinks – you can’t calculate your limit so don’t try to.
  • Take it in turns for one of your party to be the designated driver on nights out.
  • Leave the car at home and use public transport or take a registered taxi – why not pre-book one with a reputable company before you go out.
  • Stick to soft drinks – it tends to be a cheaper alternative as well as helping you avoid that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling.

drink driving



*** Be ‘drink aware’ this Christmas ***

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive, so the only safe advice is to avoid drinking any.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year from your team at Redbourn Auto Solutions.


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