‘Tis the season to be merry, and ‘tis also the time for our annual reminder about drink driving. The law on drink driving is clear, and the penalty for being in charge of a vehicle, driving a vehicle, or being involved in an accident when over the limit can be harsh.
Part of the problem with negotiating the drink driving regulations is that it varies slightly from person to person, as well as for different regions. Scotland’s limits are far lower than those for Northern Ireland, England and Wales. The amount of alcohol in your system from one drink will vary based on your age, gender, weight and metabolism. It also depends how much you drink, and how quickly, how much you have eaten before drinking (not during), how stressed you are, and even your hormone balance.
Theoretically, you should be able to have one small drink with a meal and still be below the drink driving limits. However, we have all been in a situation where we have had one drink and feel a bit tipsy. The problem is, there is no telling when that one drink is going to affect you.
If you are caught drink driving
The punishment for being caught drink driving is severe for a reason; drink driving can kill. If you have over 35 micrograms (22 micrograms in Scotland), per 100 millilitres of breath, 80 milligrams (50 in Scotland) per 100 ml of blood, or 107 milligrams (67 in Scotland) per 100 ml of urine, you are over the limit. As with speeding fines, the severity of your punishment will reflect the severity of the offence, but a fine is definite, a ban likely and between 3 months and life in prison possible (life imprisonment can be given for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink).
Avoiding drink driving
Drink driving isn’t just a concern the day of a party, it is something you need to be aware of the morning after, too. Our bodies tend to metabolise a unit per hour. So, if you have six drinks and finish partying at midnight, you should have expelled the alcohol from your system by the next morning. However, if you finish drinking in the early hours and have, say, ten drinks, you may not be fit to drive until the next afternoon.
The only way to be sure that you are within the safe legal limit to drive is to buy some breathalysers and keep them in your car. If you are tempted to drive and you have had a couple of drinks and a meal, and feel ok, or it is the morning after, do a breath test on yourself. It is just not worth the risk.