Know your limits: drink drive limits in the UK

Know your limits: drink drive limits in the UK

With more and more people choosing staycations this year, plenty of us will be driving across the UK over the coming months.

Did you know that different countries within the UK can set their own alcohol limits for drivers? Scotland is currently stricter on drink driving than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

How much can you drink before driving?

There is no set number of units that you can drink before you are over the drink drive limit. This is because the drink drive limit is measured as a percentage of alcohol in your blood, breath, or urine.

If you’re in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, the legal limit is 35 micrograms per 100ml of breath, or 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC).

In Scotland, the limit is lower, at just 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – 0.05% BAC.

If you plan to drive in Europe, it’s worth researching the drink driving regulations in the country you’re travelling to. Many European countries have stricter limits than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

How many pints can I drink before getting behind the wheel?

There is no exact rule for how many pints you can drink before driving. Your BAC will vary depending on factors such as your metabolism, age, gender, weight, whether you’ve recently eaten, and even your stress levels. Of course, the type of alcohol you choose to drink will also have an effect on your overall BAC.

If you want to avoid all doubts, it’s best to abstain from drinking before driving altogether.

How does alcohol affect your driving?

The effects of alcohol include slower muscle response due to delayed signals from the brain, reduced ability to process information and less ability to repress potentially harmful behaviour.

The results of alcohol consumption can include slower reaction times, blurred or double vision and increased risk taking.

Consuming alcohol before driving puts you and other road users in danger. In 2019, there were an estimated 7,860 drink driving related casualties in Great Britain, with 280 deaths.

AlphaBiolabs offer a range of legal alcohol testing services to family law professionals and local authorities across the UK. We can also provide workplace alcohol testing to keep your business safe. We work with a number of transport and logistics companies across the country.

To learn more, get in touch with our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email

Order an Alcohol Test

AlphaBiolabs is an accredited laboratory offering a range of alcohol testing services.