Festive drinking

You can be over the limit to drive on less alcohol than you may think. If you’re out celebrating over the festive period, don’t drink if you’re driving.

Be safe, avoid alcohol before you drive

The legal limit for driving is 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood. However, it’s very difficult to judge when you've reached that limit.

The NHS recommends:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
    If you've had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours

"Regularly" means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

Alcohol affects each person differently. Many factors will influence the level of alcohol in your blood, such as age, weight, how quickly your body breaks down chemicals, type of drink, the speed of drinking and the amount that you've eaten. 

Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your driving in a number of ways, including: 

  • slower reactions
  • increased stopping distance
  • poorer judgment of speed and distance
  • a reduced field of vision

Alcohol can also make you feel overconfident. This may make you more likely to take risks when driving, creating dangerous situations for yourself and other people on the road.

Around half a million breath tests are carried out every year, so if you drink before you drive you could still get caught, even if you don’t cause an accident.

If you’re found guilty of drink driving, you could lose your licence, get a £5,000 fine, be sentenced to up to six months in prison, and pay increased rates for your car insurance.

Designated driver

Non-alcoholic punch

  • cranberry juice
  • orange juice
  • one tablespoon of sugar
  • a cinnamon stick
  • a vanilla pod
  • a small piece of fresh ginger

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and warm until the punch gently simmers.

There are plenty of alternatives to drinking and driving that won’t spoil your fun. Why not take turns with your friends or family members at being the designated driver?

Some pubs offer free soft drinks to the person being 'Des' for the night. Otherwise, take a taxi or agree in advance to stay at a friend’s house for the night. Make sure you only stay with someone you know and trust.

If you've spent the evening drinking and you plan to drive the next day, it’s safest to leave at least 12 hours for the alcohol to leave your system. If you’ve drunk a lot, you may need even more time.

You may still be affected by alcohol the morning after. If you have a hangover, your driving ability may be impaired anyway. If you're stopped and given a breath test, you will be treated in the same way as if you were caught the night before.

If you're having a party at home, consider your guests who may not be drinking alcohol, and make them a non-alcoholic cocktail.

Page last reviewed: 24/10/2014

Next review due: 24/10/2016


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