Drink and Drug Driving

Roadside drug test

Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs can seriously affect your ability to control your vehicle and your ability to respond to what is happening around you. This can have disastrous consequences.

Drink Driving

Drink driving is extremely dangerous and illegal. If you were to drive at twice the legal alcohol limit, you are at least 30 times more likely to cause a road crash, than a driver who hasn't been drinking.

If you are caught drink driving, you will lose your licence. This could have very serious knock-on implications for your personal life, you may lose your job and you will receive a criminal record which could in turn affect your ability to travel abroad.

Legal Alcohol Limits

There is no safe limit for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Each person responds differently to the amount of alcohol that it takes to reach the legal, drink drive limit. As alcohol levels are measured by blood alcohol content and urine alcohol content, there are several factors that will affect your tolerance to alcohol including:

  • weight
  • gender
  • age
  • metabolism
  • current stress levels
  • recent food consumption
  • amount of alcohol.

All these factors mean that the only safe option is not to drink alcohol if you plan to drive, and never offer an alcoholic drink to someone else who is intending to drive. Even after a heavy night of drinking the alcohol in your system does not just disappear overnight. Your body takes time to break the alcohol down and therefore the next day you may actually still be over the legal limit to drive.

The legally defined limits in England & Wales are as follows:

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol in a 100 millilitres of breath.
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in a 100 millilitres of blood.
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol in a 100 millilitres of urine.

It is a criminal offence to refuse to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for the purposes of analysis.

The penalties for refusing to provide a sample are:

  • discretionary disqualification with a fine
  • penalty points with a fine.

Drug Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs - whether prescribed medication or illegal substances - is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. 

Drugs can affect your mind and body in a variety of ways that mean you aren't able to drive safely. Not only that, the effects can last for hours or even days. Driving while under the influence of drugs can lead to:

  • slower reaction times
  • poor concentration
  • sleepiness/fatigue
  • confusion
  • over-confidence, so you take unnecessary risks
  • lack of co-ordination
  • erratic behaviour
  • hallucinations
  • blurred vision/ enlarged pupils
  • aggression.

Many over-the-counter medicines and prescribed drugs cause impairment. People should always heed the warnings contained on the containers of such drugs. It is your responsibility to ensure the medicines and doses you are taking do not affect your driving ability. If you are unsure, you should always consult your doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist for advice.

Field Impairment Test

The tests used by UK police officers are derived from the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) used by the majority of police forces in the U.S.

Police in the UK use five field impairment tests and they cover:

  • non-invasive eye examination
  • balance exercises
  • co-ordination exercises
  • divided attention exercises.

New Legislation

A new drug drive law came into force in England and Wales on 2 March 2015.

The new law makes it illegal to drive with certain legal or illegal drugs above a certain level in the blood – even if you’re not unfit to drive. Limits will be set at very low levels for eight illegal drugs and at high levels for eight prescribed drugs which are sometimes abused. The new legislation provides a medical defence if you are taking medicine in accordance with the advice of a healthcare professional – provided your are not impaired.

New roadside drug testing kits have been introduced in Norfolk and Suffolk allowing officers to carry out roadside tests on drivers suspected of being under the influence of Cannabis or Cocaine. The kits work by testing a saliva swab.