Drink Driving – How Much Can, Could and Should You Have?


The phrase “one for the road” is still surprisingly common, despite a change in both law and attitudes towards drinking and driving. In Scotland, the law has now changed so that the drink drive limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood, where previously it was 80mg.

Don't drink and drive
So what will this achieve?

Changing Views

The new measures are part of a crack down on alcohol related incidents in Scotland generally. The measures come in whilst maintaining the current position of an automatic ban if found guilty of drink driving.

In explanation, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told the press, "There is strong evidence that drivers with a blood alcohol reading of between 50mg and 80mg are significantly impaired and an automatic ban is appropriate to deter people from drinking and driving." At the new 50mg level, it is possible that one pint of beer or a glass of wine can put you over the drink drive limit, but he believes that this would mean you’re ‘significantly impaired’ already by this stage.

The change in the threshold could lead to more being caught out, and if Scottish government policy is really considering a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drink driving, why is it that Scotland haven’t just set the limit at 0mg per 100ml, and that any amount of alcohol is over the limit?

Zero Tolerance. Tolerable?

Firstly, 0mg could cause problems in itself for people who haven’t even had half a pint. Brake, the road safety charity, recommends a threshold of 20mg per 100ml, to enforce an absolute ban. This would avoid prosecuting people with trace amounts of alcohol in their bloodstream. After all, you wouldn’t want to get prosecuted for eating a chocolate liqueur!

Julie Robertson, Partner and Head of Motoring Offences at Simpson Millar LLP, comments, “I am often asked by people how many drinks they’re able to have before they’re over the limit. This is a dangerous way to approach drinking and then driving home, as it is impossible to predict with certainty unless you are a forensic expert.”

So what kinds of things affect your blood/alcohol content, and your ability to process alcohol? If you were even to begin hazarding a guess at what you’ve had, you would have to consider:
  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Amount of food consumed
  • Amount of water consumed
  • Whether you’re on certain medications
  • The type of alcohol consumed, such as beer or spirits
  • Stress levels
As they can all affect it.

In conclusion, Julie adds “It is too easy to think that a couple of drinks for the road are acceptable and won’t put you over the limit. This is why I have always thought a zero tolerance is better.”

It’s safe to say that the numerous debates about changing the law, and social changes as well have put the spotlight on the kinds of problems that are encountered combating the problem of drink driving, whilst also having a fair criminal justice system.

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