Few people don’t like to have a drink now and then. There is a difference, however, between having a drink and going on your merry way and having too much to drink before getting behind the wheel of a car.

Between 1979 and 2014, over 85,000 drivers in England and Wales were convicted after being found guilty of drinking, then driving. Additionally, roughly 3,551 people – passengers, drivers, and pedestrians – are injured due to the negligence of drunk drivers in the UK on a yearly basis. It’s safe to say, in light of these statistics, that any road with a drunk driver on it is a dangerous route.

Driving under the influence

The legal and personal consequences of having too much to drink before getting behind the wheel impact not only you but the people living their lives around you. Let’s break down the consequences of careless driving a little further to see just how all-encompassing those consequences can be.

Legal limits across the UK

To start, the different principalities within the UK have different road safety legislation and legal alcohol limits for drivers who intend to get back on the road.

In England and Wales, drivers must have a blood alcohol level under 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood, or 0.08 per cent. These same drivers must register below 0.35 per cent BAC during a breathalyzer test.

Comparatively, drivers in Scotland have to endure stricter BAC limitations. Drivers in Scotland must have a BAC below 0.05 per cent to legally operate a vehicle on Scottish motorways. To pass a breathalyzer test, these same drivers must come in under 0.022 per cent. Scotland lowered these levels in December 2014 to promote greater safety throughout the principality.

penalties for drink driving

Penalties for drink driving

If drivers violate the aforementioned legal limits, what kind of consequences will they face? Drink driving penalties come in four forms: jail time, fines, driver’s licence points and driver’s licence revocations.

If you are found driving or attempting to drive while intoxicated in England, you’ll potentially face:

  • Six months’ imprisonment
  • A fine of up to £5,000
  • The addition of three to eleven point son your driver’s licence
  • A one year driving ban

If you are caught driving with the kids and pets, not to mention any friends or additional family members, while over the legal BAC limit, you’ll potentially face:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • A fine of up to £2,500
DUI law

If you refuse to cooperate with a police officer, refuse a breathalyzer test, or refuse to provide blood or urine for assessment, you’ll potentially face:

  • Six months’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A one year driving ban

If you have the misfortune to injure or kill a pedestrian while drunk behind the wheel, you may face: 

  • Fourteen years imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban of up to two years – and you’ll be required to take a driver’s test before your licence is reinstated

In short: driving while intoxicated results in an immediate response from your local law enforcement. Not only will you have to pay for your drinks for the evening, but you might be staring down a fine that’ll challenge you – not to mention any family you may have – for years to come.

Additional consequences

While there aren’t any additional legal consequences that you may face when caught drinking and driving, you will see your behaviour reflect negatively on other elements of your life.

For example, those individuals who receive a DUI are guaranteed to see their automobile insurance premiums skyrocket. While this fluctuation will vary based on a person’s carrier, no company lets a driver get away with a DUI.

driving after drinking

Likewise, a DUI conviction will appear on your background checks and licence checks from the point of its admittance on. This means that any future employers you have will know – and potentially base their hiring decisions on the fact – that you drank and drove without concern for your environment.

Finally, receiving a DUI will likely make it difficult for you to travel to countries outside of the UK (Brexit notwithstanding). The authorities who issue you a traveller’s visa will be aware of your driving history. Not only will it be more difficult to obtain your visa as such, but it will be significantly harder for you to rent a car in a foreign country.

Steps to take to avoid driving after drinking

If you want to go out and drink with road safety in mind, consider the following:

  • Appoint a designated driver before going to a bar
  • Take public transport while out on the town
  • Drink lots of water in between your alcoholic beverages
  • Arrange a car sharing ride with a friend once your night is done

Drink driving is distracted driving, and the loss of your inhibitions will make it easier for you to give in to road rage. You should still go out and have fun with your friends, but take the necessary steps to stay safe on the road, or else you’ll face significant and costly consequences.