You're here: Home / Alcohol knowledge centre / Drink-driving


Drink-driving in the UK is defined as the act of driving a motor vehicle (car, truck, etc.) while under the effects of alcohol. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is 80 milligrammes (mg) of ethanol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood, as set in the Road Safety Act 1967. A lower drink drive limit of 50mg / 100ml came into force in Scotland on 5 December 2014. The Northern Ireland Assembly has also passed a Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill (planned implementation in 2018) that includes lower drink drive limits on its roads.

Otherwise known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), it can become a criminal offence when a subject is caught with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a legal limit. Driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle while having a breath, blood or urine alcohol concentration in excess of the prescribed limit was one of the top five offences which recorded the highest number of convicted repeat offenders in 2012. A conviction for drink-driving may not necessarily involve driving a vehicle; you can also be prosecuted in charge of a parked vehicle and/or failing to cooperate with the police in taking a preliminary roadside breath test.

As well as being against the law, drink-driving in excess has also scientifically been shown to greatly increase the risk of injury to all parties on the road. The latest official figures show that there were 6,070 drink drive accidents bearing 9,040 casualties in Great Britain (220 fatal drink drive accidents; 230 fatalities). Despite a steady decline in the annual number of drink-driving accidents and fatalities to the lowest levels since records began, it remains the case that thousands of people are injured on the roads by drivers who drink, and the number of fatalities has stayed largely unchanged since 2010.

Therefore, measures have been and will continue to be taken by successive governments to lower the rate of casualties and fatalities for all drivers, riders, passengers and pedestrians. This includes the introduction of policies such as the High Risk Offenders Scheme, a series of state-sponsored anti- drink drive campaigns and proposals to give the police indiscriminate powers to breathalyse all vehicle drivers and riders at the roadside.

You can click on each image below to read each factsheet, or the download button to have them all in a PDF (updated October 2018)

Selected related resources

The Institute of Alcohol Studies

A brief history of drink-driving policy

Published 2018