Drink Driving Laws in England 2023: How Much Alcohol Can You Drink and Drive?

Drinking and driving in England

The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving in England is 0.08% (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 blood milliliters) or equivalent to 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath. Individuals who exceed these limits may be subject to penalties and punishments.

The amount of alcohol it takes for a person to reach a BAC of 0.08% can vary depending on individual characteristics like weight and gender, typically ranging from one to two standard drinks.

This article intends to provide information and raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving in England. This website does not promote or condone drunk driving in any state or location.

Around 200 fatal collisions due to drink-driving were estimated to have occurred in the United Kingdom in 2020. 

Among these collisions, 5.5% occurred in England, the second-highest drink-and-drive incidents in the U.K. 

England’s BAC limit is higher compared to other European countries. As of this date, no concrete plans exist for lowering England’s BAC limit. 

Driving when intoxicated carries substantial safety risks. It is best to avoid driving after taking alcohol entirely. If you must drive, it is advisable to use designated driver services, taxis, or other modes of transportation.

It is critical to follow drunk driving rules. If you must drive, you must first determine your BAC level. An alcohol breathalyzer is a reliable tool for determining your blood alcohol level.

We recommend checking United Kingdom’s official website for more information about drunk driving restrictions in England.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in England

Signs of alcohol intoxication may occur after the first drink, weakening rational thinking and potentially driving individuals to engage in acts they would not typically do when sober.

The primary danger associated with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the increased likelihood of causing a collision.

Alcohol typically takes 30 minutes to 2 hours to enter your system after ingestion. Driving while impaired with alcohol or drugs poses a significant risk as it can affect various aspects of your driving, including the following:

  • your ability to judge speed and distance,
  • coordination and reaction skills,
  • cause blurry or impaired vision,
  • drowsiness,
  • aggression,
  • erratic behavior,
  • panic attacks,
  • paranoia, 
  • hallucinations,
  • nausea,
  • dizziness, and 
  • tremors.

These effects can occur even if you do not look or feel drunk. Moreover, alcohol and drugs can create a false sense of confidence, leading to more risk-taking behavior, which endangers your own life and the lives of others on the road.

While the legal blood alcohol content limit in England is set at 0.08%, it’s important to note that individuals can react differently to alcohol, and several factors can impact a person’s BAC levels.

The following are factors that can affect blood alcohol concentration:

  • weight,
  • gender,
  • hunger,
  • stress levels,
  • level of alcohol consumption, and
  • medicine consumption

It is best to check your blood alcohol level before getting behind the wheel. Even if you appear sober, your driving ability may be already compromised by alcohol. Sometimes, people may experience trembling or faintness after consuming alcoholic beverages.

While a BAC calculator and BAC chart can help you estimate how much alcohol you can drink before driving, it’s important to remember that these tools may not be universally practical or applicable because people’s reactions to alcohol vary.

The best method to assess your BAC is to use a certified alcohol breathalyzer.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in England

Individuals with BAC levels ranging from 0.010% to 0.029% are unlikely to be significantly impaired and may appear sober. However, as BAC levels rise, the signs of alcohol-related impairment become more visible.

Drunk driving laws vary from one country to the next. To prevent fines and penalties, check your blood alcohol level before driving.

The repercussions of drinking and driving in England are explained below.

In Charge of a Vehicle With Above BAC Limit or Unfit to Drive Due to Alcohol

If you are in control of a vehicle while above the legal BAC limit or unfit to drive due to alcohol consumption, you could face the following:

  • Imprisonment for up to 3 months
  • A fine of up to £2,500
  • A potential driving ban.

Driving or Attempting to Drive With Above BAC Limit or Unfit to Drive Due to Alcohol

Driving or attempting to drive while having a BAC above the legal alcohol limit, you could receive the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment for up to 6 months
  • An unlimited fine
  • A minimum of 1 year driving ban (3 years if convicted twice within ten years).

Refusal of Blood, Breath, or Urine Test

Refusal of a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test may lead to the following punishment:

  • Six months in prison
  • Unlimited fine
  • A one-year suspension from driving

Death Due to Careless Driving

If someone causes death due to careless driving while under the influence of alcohol, the penalties can be severe, including:

  • Life imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban for a minimum of 5 years
  • An extended driving test must be passed before the license can be reinstated.

When Can You Drink and Drive in England?

Various factors, including gender, can influence a person’s BAC levels. Studies show that men and women have different BAC thresholds due to the significant impact of gender.

Men possess considerably higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes, which help regulate alcohol metabolism, enabling men to absorb alcohol more rapidly than women.

While the information provided below can assist in calculating the amount of alcohol one can consume before driving in England, it’s essential to note that individual reactions to alcohol can vary. Therefore, the recommended alcohol intake below may not apply to everyone.

How Many Beer Bottles Can You Drink and Drive in England?

Drinking beer and driving in England

BAC charts indicate that individuals with lower body weights generally have higher BAC levels.

For example, a male weighing 72 kilos (160 lbs) who consumes a 350 ml (12-ounce) beer may have a BAC of 0.02%.

In contrast, a female of the same weight and drinking the same amount of beer may have a BAC of 0.03%, demonstrating the gender-related influence on alcohol metabolism.

Based on this example, limiting beer consumption to one or two bottles is best if you intend to drive afterward.

How Many Wine Glasses Can You Consume and Drive in England?

An average wine glass has 12% ABV and has a volume of 142 milliliters (5 ounces).

As seen in the above example, a male weighing 72 kilos (160 pounds) who consumes one glass of wine can have a BAC of 0.02%. 

It’s vital to note that stress, an empty stomach, and drug use can all have an impact on BAC levels. As a result, it is best to limit wine consumption to one or two glasses.

How Many Shots of Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in England?

Vodka and whiskey are types of distilled alcoholic beverages with an ABV of 40%. For instance, after consuming one shot of vodka or whiskey, a man weighing 72 kilograms (160 pounds) can attain a BAC of 0.02%.

On the other hand, a woman of the same weight and drinking pattern may have a BAC of 0.03%, demonstrating the influence of gender on alcohol metabolism. Nevertheless, BAC levels can vary based on several factors.

Limiting yourself to one or two shots is recommended if you intend to drive after consuming whiskey or vodka.

Sticking to Drink and Drive Laws in England

Impaired driving is dangerous. Being intoxicated can result in losing control over oneself and the vehicle, endangering not only the driver but also others on the road. Drivers must comprehend the risks of drunk driving and take all necessary precautions to prevent it.

Even if you’ve consumed only a few glasses or bottles of alcohol, it’s essential to be mindful of your BAC and driving ability. In such cases, it’s advisable to consider alternate modes of transportation rather than driving.

If driving after drinking is unavoidable, ensure your driving ability is not impaired. Before going, use a certified alcohol breathalyzer to determine your blood alcohol level.

To stay informed about the latest drink-driving legislation, visit the official website of the United Kingdom.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.