What is the drink driving limit in Scotland?

Don't drink and drive

Although the drink driving limit in Scotland was lowered in 2014, not everyone is aware of how much they can legally drink when driving – and the potential punishment if breaking the law.

The law around drink driving:

Firstly, let’s consider what the law on this specifically states. Drink driving is dealt with by the Road Traffic Act 1988. Section 5 states that if a person:

(a) drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or

(b) is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, he is guilty of an offence.

The law is very clear in relation to drink driving – this is in no way a grey area -  but nevertheless people still continue to do it, putting themselves and others at risk.

Drink driving limit in Scotland

The drink driving limit is different in Scotland from the rest of the UK.

In December 2014, the drink driving limit in Scotland was reduced to 50 milligrammes of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the drink driving limit is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - one of the highest drink driving limits in Europe.

Scotland’s reduction in the drink driving limit in 2014 is of course a positive step in the right direction. However, there are those who question whether this is really enough. 

Am I under the legal limit if I only have one drink in Scotland?

Even though there are clear guidelines on what the drink driving limit is, establishing whether someone is over the legal limit is far from clear without the use of breath testing equipment. Of course this is not equipment that the average person will have. It is impossible to say exactly how many drinks an individual would need to consume before they are over the limit.

Whether someone is over the limit will depend on each individual as there is no one blanket rule which applies to everyone. The various factors which can affect whether an individual is over the limit are things such as:

  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Metabolism
  • Stress
  • Type and amount of alcohol consumed. 

This is to name just a few factors which affect whether an individual is over the limit. This information is easily accessible on the Government’s website. Therefore, it is questionable whether someone who has consumed alcohol is truly aware of whether they are over the drink driving limit or not. One drink to one person may tip them over the limit, whilst keep another person under the limit. 

What are the consequences of drink driving?

There are serious penalties for drink driving. Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit can result in an individual being jailed for 3 months, a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible driving ban

Penalty of drink driving

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit, can result in being jailed for 6 months, an unlimited fine or a driving ban for at least one year.

Causing death

The most serious of all is the likelihood of drink driving leading to death which can result in up to 14 years in prison. 

Criminal record

Drink driving can not only have consequences resulting in death, it will also result in a criminal record if convicted. This can have an adverse affect on the lives for all those affected and impact future employment given that a criminal record will be seen by potential employers.

Clearly drink driving has far reaching and devastating consequences which are easily avoidable, if a person does not get behind the wheel after having consumed alcohol. 

What is the best way forward?

Although the law does allow an individual to consume a certain amount of alcohol and drive without breaking the law, there is no way of knowing whether or not you are over the limit.

A survey carried out by Brake, a road safety charity, found that 40% of drivers think that their driving ability is affected by just one unit of alcohol. 

The obvious and safest options is for those who have drunk alcohol, to simply keep away from driving.

In short although there is a legal limit, don’t drive if you have consumed even a small amount of alcohol.  It is simply not worth the risk.