Drink and drug driving

Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous.  It impairs your judgement and ability to drive safely.  You will be endangering the lives of other drivers and pedestrians as well as your own.

Not only can you cause injury or death to others, being caught drink or drug driving can also have other consequences including:

  • a criminal record
  • a heavy fine
  • losing your job
  • losing your licence
  • an increase in your insurance premiums
  • trouble travelling to certain countries such as the USA

Drink driving

It is an offence to drive, attempt to drive, or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion in the blood, breath or urine exceeds the prescribed limit. The statute for this offence is Section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Alcohol severely impairs your driving skills.   It creates a feeling of overconfidence, makes judging distance and speed more difficult and slows your reactions so it takes longer to stop.

Drink drive limits

Alcohol effects people in different ways so it is impossible to say how many drinks it takes to reach the legal limit. It can vary depending on several factors:

  • age
  • gender
  • metabolism
  • your body type
  • the type and amount of alcohol you’re drinking
  • what you have eaten recently
  • your stress levels at the time

The legal limits of alcohol relating to driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are:

  • 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres in breath
  • 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres in blood
  • 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres in urine.

Our advice is simple.  Do not consume alcoholic drinks if you are driving or intend to drive.

The morning after

The effects of alcohol can take a long time to wear off.  You may still be over the limit 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.


You could face a prison sentence, a ban from driving and a fine if you’re found guilty of drink driving.

Find out more about drink-driving penalties at gov.uk.

Drug driving

Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous and can affect your driving skills in several ways:

  • Your reaction and decision times can be slower.
  • It may distort your perception of time and distance.
  • It may effect your concentration and control of the vehicle.
  • You could become over-confident, leading to faster, riskier or more aggressive driving.
  • It may effect your vision and hearing that could impact on your judgement.
  • You could become tired and drowsy.

It is an offence to drive with certain drugs above a specified level in your blood.  This offence relates to both legal and illegal drugs.

Legal drugs

It is a common misconception that you are only committing an offence if you drive whilst under the influence of an illegal drug. Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can also have an effect your skills to drive safely.  These effects can include drowsiness, impaired judgement and a lack of self-confidence.

It is your responsibility to ensure the medicines and doses you are taking do not affect your driving ability. If you are unsure, consult your doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist for advice.

Drug driving limits

The limits for all illegal drugs are low: taking even a small amount of an illegal drug could put you over the limit.

In 2015, the limits for seventeen legal and illegal drugs in relation to driving were added to regulations.

You can see the drug driving limits on the gov.uk website.

As with alcohol, it is impossible to say what dosage would equate to being over the specified limits.


The punishments for drug driving are similar to those of drink driving.

Find out more about drug driving law at gov.uk.

Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs

It is possible for driving performance to be affected by drink or drugs even if you are below the legal limit or if a sample could not be taken.  This is an offence under ‘driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs’. 

Tests for drink and drug driving

Breath tests

The police have the power to ask you (as the driver) to give a roadside breath test if:

  • you have been involved in an accident
  • you have committed a moving traffic offence
  • the officer suspects you have been drinking

If you refuse to take the breath test, or fail to provide it, you can be arrested if the officer suspects you have been drinking.

Field impairment test (FIT)

A field impairment test (FIT) is a process designed to determine if a person is unfit to drive through drugs.  It uses the following methods of testing:

  • Non-invasive eye examination
  • Balance exercises
  • Co-ordination exercises
  • Divided attention exercises

Drug testing wipes

Drugwipe is a mobile preliminary drug testing device that can be used at the roadside.  This might be used as well as the field impairment test. This can show the presence of cannabis or cocaine in a person’s saliva. If a positive result is achieved the driver will then go to a police station where an evidential blood sample is taken by a medical practitioner.  

There are many manufacturers of this device; Drugwipe is the brand that we use. 


There is no safe limit for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Our advice is simple:  Do not drive.

  • If you have or are planning to drink alcohol, plan your journey home without driving
  • Don’t offer an alcoholic drink or drugs to someone you know is planning to drive
  • Don’t accept a lift from a driver who you know has drunk alcohol or taken drugs

Report it

If you want to report someone who habitually drives whilst under the influence of drink or drugs please report to Crimestoppers.

If you suspect someone of drink or drug driving, or know someone who is about to drive while under the influence of drink or drugs, call us on 101.  

If there is an immediate danger to life, call us on 999.

More help and support

Road Traffic Act 1988

Drugs and driving: the law on gov.uk

Drink driving penalties on gov.uk

THINK! Road safety campaign

27 Apr 21 2:30 PM

Find your neighbourhood

Use my current location