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Drink and drug driving

It is against the law to drive under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol.

Drink driving

The facts

Positive breath tests in Derbyshire 2018

Incident Type

Collisions

Casualties

Fatal

4

4

Serious

11

14

Slight

44

73

Total Incidents

59

91

The law

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is:

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

However it is not possible to say how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit. 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

So if you’re driving, it’s better to have none for the road.

The consequences

If you are convicted of drink driving, including:

  • A minimum 12 month driving ban
  • A criminal record
  • A hefty fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An endorsement on your licence for 11 years

However, this list does not reflect the everyday consequences of being caught drink driving which can include:

  • Increase in car insurance costs
  • Job loss
  • Trouble getting in to countries like the USA
  • The shame of having a criminal record
  • Loss of independence

The Institute of Advanced Motorists calculate that a drink drive conviction could cost between £20,000 - £50,000 as a result of fines, solicitors fees, increase in car insurance and loss of job

Advice 

Beware the morning after

You could be over the legal limit many hours after your last drink, even if it's the 'morning after'. Sleep, coffee and cold showers don't help to sober you up - time is the only way to get alcohol out of your system.

There is no excuse for drink driving

  • I can handle my drink.
  • Alcohol affects everybody's driving for the worse. It creates a feeling of overconfidence, makes judging distance and speed more difficult and slows your reactions so it takes longer to stop
  • "I'm only going down the road."
  • A large proportion of all drink drive crashes occur within three miles of the start of the journey.

If you're planning to drink alcohol, plan how to get home without driving
Options include agreeing on a designated driver, saving a taxi number to your phone, or finding out about public transport routes and times before you go out.

Don't offer an alcoholic drink to someone you know is planning to drive
Even if you're not driving, you can help reduce the number of people who are killed and injured every year by drink driving.

Don't accept a lift from a driver you know has drunk alcohol

Drug driving

The facts

It is against the law to drive under the influence of illegal drugs, or if you have certain drugs above a specified level in your blood.

Similar to drink driving, the police have a roadside test that makes it easier to detect those who are driving under the influence of illegal drugs.

If you are caught and convicted, you could face a driving ban, large fine and a prison sentence. 

Changes to the drug driving law

On 2 March 2015, the drug driving law changed to make it easier for the police to catch and convict drug drivers.

It is now an offence to drive with any of 17 controlled drugs above a specified level in your blood. This includes illegal and medical drugs. The limits set for each drug is different, and for illegal drugs the limits set are extremely low, but have been set at a level to rule out any accidental exposure (i.e from passive smoking).

Officers can test for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside, and screen for other drugs, including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin at the police station. Even drivers that pass the roadside check can be arrested if the police suspect that your driving is impaired by drugs.

The consequences

The penalties for drug driving are the same as for drink driving. If you are convicted you could face:

  • A minimum 12-month driving ban
  • A criminal record
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An endorsement on your driving license for 11 years

The consequences of a drug drive conviction are far reaching and can include:

  • Job loss
  • Loss of independence
  • The shame of having a criminal record
  • Increase in car insurance costs
  • Trouble getting in to countries like the USA

How drugs impair driving

Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving skills in a number of ways.

Cannabis users often think they are safer when they are under the influence because they drive more slowly. However, cannabis slows reaction and decision times. It can also distort perception of time and distance, and result in poorer concentration and control of the vehicle.

Cocaine leads to a sense of over-confidence and this is reflected in user’s driving style. Users typically perform higher risk, more aggressive manoeuvres at greater speeds.

Ecstasy (MDMA) is extremely dangerous to drive on because it results in distorted vision, heightened perception of sounds, altered perception and judgement of risks and an over-confident driving attitude.

During the phase whilst the effects of any illegal drugs are wearing off the user may feel fatigued, affecting concentration levels.

Driving in any of these conditions is a bad idea – not just for the driver but for their passengers and other road users.