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Drink-Driving This Christmas: How to Be 100% Sure You Are Not Over the Limit

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Studies have found that one in three male drivers thought they were fine to drive after three pints of beer, when in fact two pints of lager within a two hour period will put you over the limit. 

With the cold, icy roads and ongoing Christmas festivities, drivers must be careful travelling at this time of year, particularly if they have consumed alcohol.

As part of their Drink Drive study, the experts at Confused.com looked at the drink-driving offences in 47 countries around the world, revealing the UK holds the highest maximum fine for offenders as there is no fixed maximum.

With 9 in 10 Brits claiming they are unsure about drink-driving rules, Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com has broken down all you need to know to drive safely this Christmas

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The UK’s Drink Habits

Even though pubs, bars and clubs were closed for around 31 weeks in 2020, COVID brought many changes to the nation’s drinking habits. A survey by Delamere found that one in four (22%) of adults had increased their alcohol consumption in the last year.

The survey also found that the biggest pandemic drinking increase was found in those aged 18-24, with almost a third saying they had started drinking more in the past year.

So when it comes to driving, ideally if you’ve drunk any alcohol, the safest bet is to not drive at all. 

Whilst snowy weather can impact your vision without being under the influence, studies show that being at the legal driving limit actually reduces the eye’s ability to adjust for brightness by 30%.

How Many Units Are in Your Evening Tipple?

If you are deciding to chance consuming alcohol and driving, it is important to know how to work out how many units are in your drinks.

 In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Drink-Drive Alcohol Limit for Drivers Is:
  • 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  • 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath

Whilst the NHS says you shouldn’t drink more than 14 units in a single week, the legal drink-drive limit works out at about four units for men, equating to two pints of normal strength beer. 

For women, the limit works out at about three units, which equates to one and a half pints of lower-strength beer, or two small glasses of wine.

How Much Can I Drink and Still Be Okay to Drive?

There is no set in stone rule, as this all depends on the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol depending on a number of factors, such as your sex, weight and stress levels. 

Because alcohol affects each person differently, there’s no foolproof way of drinking and staying under the limit.

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One person may be okay to drive after one or two drinks, while another is over the drink-drive limit after only one. However, you can get a rough estimate of your blood alcohol content (BAC) level using a morning-after calculator.

Even though you may have stopped drinking the night before, alcohol can remain in your blood for 6 hours and on your breath for up to 24 hours.

How Much Is a Unit of Alcohol?

One alcohol unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.

Looking at 12% wine, a standard glass (175ml) would be 2.1 units, and a standard 750ml bottle would be about nine units.

However, you must be more aware of the beers, ciders and lagers, as they can have much more variation due to their different strengths:

A pint of 4% lager, e.g. Carling would be about 2.3 units, a pint of 6.6% Leffe Blonde would be about 3.8 units, and a pint of 8.2% of Weston Vintage cider would be about 4.7 units.

It is essential to be aware that a typical pint contains around one to two units, a glass of wine can be between one and a half to three units, depending on the strength and the size of the glass.

Whilst there are ways to monitor your alcohol consumption, it is important to remember that you could be imprisoned, banned from driving and face a fine if you’re found guilty of drunk driving.

Drink-Driving This Christmas

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, says: “With borders opening up again, it’s likely that many travellers will be considering renting a car to help them explore the area while on holiday. 

“And while the general advice is not to drive after having a drink it’s important that we are aware of how drink-driving laws may differ across different countries.

“Some only account for minor amounts that are found in medication, while some popular tourist destinations have a strict zero-tolerance policy, such as Hungary and Dubai.

“With such varying drinking limits around the world, it’s always best to measure your intake, even in the morning after you have had a drink the night before, if you need to drive.

“Our morning-after calculator can help you understand how long alcohol can stay in your system and allow you to work out an estimate on your blood alcohol content so that you aren’t caught out. And if you’re ever unsure, we always advise you to give driving a miss and opt for a taxi or a walk instead, where hopefully you can take in the lovely sights on your trip at the same time.”

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