Scotland’s drink drive limit was reduced by law on 5 December 2014.
It is estimated that one in every nine deaths on Scottish roads each year involve a driver who is over the legal drink drive limit. This equates to approximately 30 deaths per year.
The change in policy was due to the increasing concern that the Scotland drink drive limit was too high and driver’s would drink anyway believing they are safely beneath the threshold.
With clearly defined limits and penalties already in place, from 2010-16 there were an estimated 43,050 reported drink driving accidents and 1.620 fatalities caused by drivers over the legal alcohol limit.
- Why Was The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland Lowered?
- What Is The Current Drink Drive Limit Scotland?
- How Does The Scotland Drink Drive Limit Differ To Other Countries?
- How Can I Ensure I Stay Below The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland?
- How Does Alcohol Impact Your Driving?
- What Is The Punishment For Drink Driving?
- How Can I Calculate How Many Units I Have Consumed?
- Has The Change To The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland Made Any Difference?
Why Was The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland Lowered?
The change in policy was the result of a unanimous vote from Scottish parliament on 18 Nov 2014 in favour of the new stricter law.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Scotland is leading the way across the UK. The new limit has backing from experts, road safety campaigners and the majority of the public north and south of the border.
“This change will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe. It’s not about criminalising drivers, it’s about making our roads safer and sending a clear message that even one alcoholic drink will affect the ability to drive.
“All the evidence from the Republic of Ireland shows reducing the limit means less convictions and lower blood alcohol counts.
“Today we are sending a clear message to drivers who continue to ignore the warnings that there is never an excuse to drink and drive.”
What Is The Current Drink Drive Limit Scotland?
Currently, the limits are as follows for the detectable micrograms of alcohol in the system:
- 22mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath (also known as the breath limit)
- 50mcg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (also known as the blood limit)
- 67mcg of alcohol in 100ml of urine (also known as the urine limit)
This means that just one alcoholic drink, even a single pint of lager, could put you over the Scotland drink drive limit.
How Does The Scotland Drink Drive Limit Differ To Other Countries?
The Scotland drink drive limit is stricter than the law governing the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scottish parliament say that they lowered the limit to bring Scotland in line with other European countries and to make their roads a safer place.
By comparison England’s drink driving limits are as follows;
- 35mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath (also known as the breath limit)
- 80mcg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (also known as the blood limit)
- 107mcg of alcohol in 100ml of urine (also known as the urine limit)
These values are considerably higher than those of Scotland.
How Can I Ensure I Stay Below The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland?
If you are planning a night out with friends or family where alcohol will likely be involved, ensure one of you does not drink and can get everyone home safely.
The safest way to avoid being over the Scotland drink drive limit is not to drink at all, as even one medium-sized glass of wine can exceed the breath, blood, or urine limit previously mentioned.
If this isn’t possible you can always use public transport such as the local bus, train, or tram system depending on your location.
It is a good decision to save a local taxi company’s number to your phone so that you can contact them even without internet access, or you could use an app such as Uber or Lyft if you have data.
If you are driving stick to water, soft drinks, or non-alcoholic drinks such as mocktails of non-alcoholic beers.
How Does Alcohol Impact Your Driving?
We rely on many of the brain’s functions when participating in a task as mentally taxing as driving. Despite feeling like second nature we are constantly using all four limbs, monitoring our speed, direction, and predicting the movements of other drivers.
When under the influence of alcohol the instruction of movement from your brain to your limb takes longer and so your reactions are slowed.
Furthermore, the brain takes longer to receive information from the eye which is why your vision seems blurred and may find it difficult to focus after a drink.
Lowered inhibitions means you may act on thoughts you would normally dismiss as reckless or illogical such as speeding, running a red light, or driving dangerously to impress others.
All of the factors come together to make you a far worse driver under the influence than you would be sober. This entertaining video demonstrates how even a legendary Formula 1 driver like Michael Schumacher struggles behind the wheel when facing the same distractions as a drunk driver.
How Much Can You Drink While Remaining Under The Limit?
There is no set amount you can drink and stay safely under the Scotland drink drive limit. There are too many factors at play, and the way your body breaks down alcohol varies from person to person.
The numerous factors which determine how efficiently your body can absorb alcohol include; weight, age, sex, metabolism, and even if you are feeling stressed.
On top of this the type of alcohol and the amount consumed, combined with what you have eaten throughout the day, can all change how a single pint would appear in your blood, breath, and urine tests.
Unfortunately, there is no set amount you can consume. In order to play it safe, it is recommended you refrain from drinking if you want to stay under the Scotland drink drive limit.
How Are You Tested For Drink Driving?
If the police are suspicious that you may be driving while under the influence of alcohol they will carry out a screening test at the roadside. They do this using a conventional breathalyser.
If you fail this test you will be taken to the nearest police station and given a second breathalyser test. At the station you will be required to provide two more breath samples using a more advanced breathalyser machine.
The lower of these two readings will determine whether or not you are considered to be driving over the limit.
The police can carry out a breathalyser test if you have broken any driving laws, have been involved in an accident, or if your driving has given them any probable grounds to believe you may be driving drunk.
The police can stop any vehicle at their discretion and will often set up drink driving screening checkpoints around festive periods such as Christmas or New Years Eve.
What Is The Punishment For Drink Driving?
You can face a wide number of penalties if you are convicted of breaching the Scotland drink drive limit.
Anyone found to be driving over the limit will be banned from driving in the UK for at least 12 months and fined up to £5000.
You will also be penalised with 3-11 points on your licence, depending on the severity of the case. Bear in mind that according to UK law if you amass more than 12 points within a three year period you will lose your licence. This differs for new drivers; if you exceed six points within the first two years of passing your test your licence will be revoked.
If the circumstances are particularly serious you can be sentenced to up to six months in prison.
Furthermore, if you are caught more than once in a ten year period you will be banned from driving for three years, and will have to reapply for your licence after this. This includes passing both your theory and practical tests again.
How Can I Calculate How Many Units I Have Consumed?
You can use this helpful website to calculate how many units you have consumed.
Try putting in what you may drink on your average night out to determine how many units you would drink.
You can also use this website to calculate for when you may be driving the following day. Often alcohol can still be in your system and at an illegal level…
Can I Still Be Over The Limit The Following Day?
After a night of heavy drinking alcohol will stay in your system for hours so there is a significant risk when driving the following morning.
Toxicologists have warned that it may take a few hours after waking for people to be safely under the limit the day after ingesting alcohol.
On average it takes a person one hour to clear between 15mcg and 18mcg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Dr Hazel Torrance, a forensic toxicologist for the University of Glasgow, spoke to the BBC about the Scotland drink drive limit;
“Currently, you can probably drink a pint and a half of beer and maybe a large glass and a half of wine and you should be under the limit.”
“With the new limit, that will be reduced to a pint of beer and a glass of wine.”
“Alcohol is processed through the liver and is excreted through the urine. There are average rates at which this happens, but that can vary depending on the individual and depending on the individual circumstances as well, such as whether they have eaten.”
“There are differences between individuals depending on their body weight, on their sex, on what concentration of alcohol they achieve and how quickly that is excreted. It is very individual-dependent.”
“If they have been eating, then it tends to take longer to reach a maximum alcohol concentration in your blood.”
“Make sure you leave sufficient time between stopping drinking and driving.”
Has The Change To The Drink Drive Limit in Scotland Made Any Difference?
A recent study has found that the change in Scottish law has not actually made any significant difference to the number of convictions for drink driving, or reduced the number of road accidents involving someone over the legal limit.
The research, which was carried out as a team effort by NHS Health Scotland, the University of Stirling and the University of East Anglia, looked at police data on road traffic accidents across the UK.
The findings were then combined with data showing alcohol consumption rates – with the researchers stating the study allowed them to effectively identify the impact of the Scotland drink-drive limit change.
Professor of medical statistics at Glasgow University, Jim Lewsey helped to carry out the study and reported that there were “unequivocal results” showing that the change in policy “did not have the intended effect on reducing (road traffic accidents).”
“Our findings are surprising, given what we know from previous international evidence, which generally supports a reduction of RTAs following the same lowering of a blood alcohol concentration limit.
“However, the results of our high-quality study are unequivocal – they indicate that the reduction in Scotland’s drink-drive limit in December 2014 simply did not have the intended effect of reducing RTAs.”
“In our view, the most plausible explanation for our findings is that the change in legislation was not backed up with additional police enforcement, nor sustained media campaigning.”
“It is also perhaps an indication of the safety of Scotland’s roads more generally, following continual improvements in recent years, and the fact that drink-driving is increasingly socially unacceptable.”
“Drink-driving remains highly dangerous and against the law. It is important to stress that these findings should not be interpreted to imply that any level of drink-driving is safe.”
Drink Drive Limit Scotland – FAQ:
Can I Drink A Pint And Drive In Scotland?
Yes, you can drink a pint and drive in Scotland, but you must wait a few hours between drinking and getting behind the wheel in order to be safely under the limit.
The rate at which different people’s bodies break down alcohol is dependent on a number of factors as mentioned earlier. One person could break down a pint in 45 minutes whereas for others it could be two hours.
In order to play it safe, it is best to just not drink at all if driving within the next three hours.
How Many Units Can I Drink And Drive?
Due to the law in Scotland a direct link between the number of units consumed and if you are legally safe to drive cannot be calculated.
In some cases a single medium-sized glass of wine, which equates to 2.3 units, can put you over the limit but those with a faster metabolism breaking down alcohol more efficiently, they could be legally safe to drive.
In April 2016 two drivers were arrested and fined after having drank only one pint close to the Scottish border, so in order to stay legal we recommend you don’t drink at all.
Is It Zero Tolerance In Scotland?
No it is not a zero tolerance law in Scotland regarding drink driving, so you can have a small amount of alcohol in your system and still be within the law to drive.
As mentioned earlier the breath, blood, and urine limits are very low so despite not being zero tolerance, the legal limit is very close to it.