What can happen when you drive under the influence of drink or drugs?


Posted by Holly West-Robinson on 21 December 2015

It's that time of year again where festivities are in full swing, people are rushing around to get their last minute shopping done, making a fool of themselves at company dos, and probably getting quite fed up with the seasonal cheese on the radio by now! Christmas can be a wonderful yet stressful time of year for most of us. But, through all the hustle and bustle of it all, it's still a time of year to not dismiss, let alone forget, the increased risks on our roads with drink and drug drivers.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Every year GOV.UK launch a campaign aimed at drivers, young and old, with a powerful message reiterating the dangers of being even slightly over the limit whilst driving, and the drastic consequences it can bring if you get caught by the Police.

In Scotland, the acceptable limits for being able to drink and drive are 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood and 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath.

In the rest of the UK the legal amount of alcohol for a driver is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine. So, what does this actually mean?

Generally the most tolerable amount of alcohol any one person can intake is 2 pints of normal strength lager or 2 small glasses of wine. But, it is also worth knowing that a person's gender, weight, metabolism and what they have eaten that day, all play a factor in how the alcohol can affect them. Even if you have had a bit of sleep and waited until the next morning to drive after a night out, this doesn't mean that you are safe to do so. One pint of beer takes roughly 2 hours to leave your system, so if you have consumed more than that in an evening, it's probably still going to be present in your blood stream hours later. Our advice is simple, just don't drink any alcohol at all if you plan on getting behind the wheel whether it be on the night or the morning after.

There's more to think about than a good night out

If you are convicted of drink driving, the longer term problems that could arise include a dramatic increase in insurance premiums or refusal of cover. Even problems travelling to other parts of the world such as the US, Canada, China and Australia. This black mark on your record means that you could struggle to get employment if you found yourself looking for work or changing careers. A drink driving offence is still classed as a criminal conviction meaning it will stay on your record for 11 years until it is spent.

In 1979 the estimated death toll on UK roads through drink driving alone was at a staggering 1,640, compared to 2013 where this figure was reduced to approximately 260 deaths. A substantial difference and improvement but still... that's 260 lives lost unnecessarily, whether it be the life of another driver, a pedestrian, passengers in the car or the driver themselves.

What is the punishment for being caught drink driving?

British Police Car

In most cases, the penalties for getting caught in the UK usually result in a 12 month ban, a £5,000 fine and up to 12 months imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. These consequences can be even more severe if you cause damage to property or refuse to provide a blood, urine or breath sample to the police when they suspect you of being over the limit.

Things can be seriously worse if someone is injured or killed by a drunk driver. They could be sentenced up to 14 years in prison for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs. It's just not worth taking the risk!

Driving whilst impaired on drugs

Woman smoking marijauana

In March this year the government introduced road side testing known as 'the drugalyser' in England and Wales for people suspected of driving whilst impaired on drugs. This doesn't just mean illegal substances such as cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, LSD or ecstasy but certain prescription drugs can also run a high risk of leaving the individual in an unfit state to drive. Some of these prescribed narcotics include:-

  • Amphetamine, eg dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, eg codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam

If you have legitimately been prescribed drugs from your doctor, make sure you only take the dosage they have recommended. It may also be worth obtaining a doctor's note confirming you are allowed to be taking these medicines in case the Police pull you over.

Driving whilst intoxicated on drugs can come with some unpleasant side effects. Not only are your reaction times slower, it also effects your concentration, coordination, causes dizziness, fatigue, hallucinations, and in some cases unpredictable and aggressive behaviour. None of which is a nice state for the driver to be in, let alone for anyone travelling with them, and puts their own life, and the lives of others, on the line.

What are the consequences of driving under the influence of drugs?


The consequences are the same as drink driving as they are categorised under the same offence. If your main occupation is a driver, you can pretty much kiss goodbye to that job or any chance of getting into a similar line of work for quite a number of years. You may also struggle with travelling abroad to countries like the USA and other parts of the world.

In official UK government statistics, it is estimated that there were 31 recorded road deaths and 181 serious casualties as a result of impaired driving by illegal and medical drugs in 2013 alone. However this figure is likely to be much higher and closer to 200 deaths that year from exactly the same issue. This issue needs to be taken very seriously by anyone wishing to keep their license, record and conscience free from the devastating outcomes that it can cause.

Have a safe Christmas

Remember, you don't have to have had much in order to be intoxicated or over the limit. The rules are there for a very good reason so if you do plan on having a drink or taking party drugs over the festive period - do it responsibly and DO NOT get behind the wheel of a car. A taxi fare is a much smaller price to pay compared to losing your life or taking someone else's. Marmalade would like to wish all of our young drivers a very happy but safe Christmas and the very best for 2016!

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About the Author

Holly West-Robinson
Holly West-Robinson

Hi I'm Holly and I'm a young driver based in Peterborough! I love tattoos, food, drawing and anything art related, enjoy hanging out with friends and family and making a fool of myself XD I'm a huge lover of music and also a part time DJ in the underground drum and bass scene. I passed my driving test first time when I was 17 years old have been loving life and my new found freedom ever since! I'm definitely one of the adventurous types who's always up for a good old road trip!