posted 7 months ago

Should the Drink Drive Limit Be Cut by a Third?

Ministers suggest England could follow Scotland’s lead.

On 05 December 2014, Scotland cut its drink drive limit from 80mg of Alcohol per 100ml of blood to just 30mg of Alcohol per 100ml of blood. 

It is possible that England and Wales could follow suit.

Transport Minister, Andrew Jones said: “I am intending to discuss with the Scottish minister the experience of the lower limit in Scotland and the timescales to get access to robust evidence of the road safety impact,” 

He continued: “It is important to base our decisions on evidence and the Scottish experience will be crucial to that before we consider any possible changes to limits in England and Wales.

This government’s current position, however, remains to focus resources on enforcing against the most serious offenders.”

Current Limits

The current drink drive limit In England and Wales is amongst the highest in Europe and is as follows:

  • 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. 
  • 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath; and
  • 107 mg per 100 ml of urine. 

Drink driving the morning after: The penalties

The amount of alcohol that a person would need to drink in order to reach the current limits differs from person to person and is affected by a number of factors such as metabolic rate, build, and the length of time taken to consume the alcohol.

This has left many drivers bewildered at the question; how much is too much?

If the limit is reduced in line with the Scottish drink drive limit, just one pint could be enough for the average man to reach the limit. 

drink drive

Changing attitudes

Since the drink drive limit was lowered in Scotland, large numbers of business owners have reported a change in behaviour, with many motorists choosing to decline from drinking alcohol altogether if intending to drive.

Indeed this seems the safest method of ensuring that you stay under the limit and outside of the long arm of the law. 

Safer roads

In 2014, 240 fatalities and 1,080 serious injuries were caused by drink driving.

Research by the RAC suggests that a lower limit could save around 25 lives per year.

Indeed, since the limit was lowered in Scotland, the number of drink driving offences fell by 12.5% in the subsequent 9 months. 

Cars could soon prevent 'drink driving'

‘Accidental’ drink driving

A lower limit would increase the chances of being caught over the limit the morning after, and could see otherwise law abiding motorists brought before the Courts for unwittingly driving with excess alcohol in their system. 

Consuming alcohol the night before has left many drivers unsure about whether they are ‘safe’ to drive the morning after, wondering how long they should wait. There is no easy answer. At present, the higher limit leaves more leeway for drivers in this situation. 

The President of the AA, Edmund King said: "With a lower limit, drivers will also have to be aware of being over the limit the morning after. Our research shows that almost 20 per cent of drivers have driven the morning after when they believed they could be over the limit."

drink drive

Effective policing?

As with many of the UK’s road traffic laws, their effectiveness is often undermined by a lack of policing to support them.

The amount of drivers who continue to use mobile phones whilst driving and smoke in cars carrying children are easy examples of this.

With the ever diminishing number of road traffic police officers, and the serious numbers of road deaths and injuries which are caused by drink driving every year, the question must be posed; would the limited number of officers’ time be better spent catching deliberate and sometimes repeat offenders who are significantly over the limit, or detecting lower level, possibly accidental drink drivers who never set out to commit an offence in the first place?

Mr King of the AA also said "A majority of AA members support a lower limit and it seems a sensible step to bring us into line with Scotland and the majority of European countries."

He added: "However, it would probably be more effective for the police to target hard-core offenders who are way over the current limit as they are involved in the most deaths and injuries on the road."

Consequences of a drink driving conviction

A person who is caught drink driving would be brought before the criminal courts and face prosecution.  

If they are found guilty, even if marginally over the limit, they face an automatic disqualification of at least 12 months, and a fine of up to £5000.

More serious offenders could receive a community or even custodial sentence. The conviction would appear on their driving record for eleven years, meaning that those in driving professions could find it extremely difficult to find employment for many years to come. 

Have your say:

Article written by Alison Ashworth; Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law Ltd. 

For more information or to contact Ashworth Motoring Law for advice relating to any motoring offence call the local rate helpline on 0330 33 22 770, email or visit the website at