How does alcohol affect your driving?
Alcohol slows reactions and even very low amounts of alcohol will impair the skills needed for safe driving. It slows down the brain, impacting upon your judgement, reason, self control and reaction times. Drivers feel a false sense of confidence, lose their inhibitions and are more likely to take risks. Evidence shows that drivers who have been drinking tend to focus more on the most basic activities, such as steering, and less on other key driving skills. This increases their risk of crashing.
Is everyone affected the same way?
No. How the body processes alcohol differs from person to person. It can depend on a number of factors:
- amount and type – how much alcohol has been taken how quickly
- age – younger people have lower alcohol tolerance coupled with a lack of driving experience
- weight/size – the smaller you are, the lower your blood volume is likely to be and alcohol may affect you more
- gender – women are typically smaller and have proportionately more body fat and less body water than men so drinking the same amount of alcohol is likely to result in a higher blood alcohol concentration
- water intake – dehydration leads to a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood
- food intake – alcohol is absorbed more slowly if there is food in the body
If you take drugs as well as alcohol your ability to drive safely will be affected even more, increasing further your risk of being involved in a collision.
The drink drive limit
There are strict alcohol limits for drivers. It is impossible to say exactly how many drinks this equals as it is different for each person.
The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Northern Ireland is:
- 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
Plan ahead - if you are going out and you plan to take a drink or think you might be tempted to take a drink:
- book a taxi
- arrange a lift
- designate a driver
- check out the public transport options
The morning after
It is important to remember that you may be over the legal limit many hours after your last drink, even if you have slept all night.
Sleep, breakfast, coffee or a cold shower will not sober you up – only time will reduce the alcohol in your body.
What are the penalties?
You are likely to face serious penalties if you are charged and found guilty of a drink driving offence in Northern Ireland. The actual penalty that you get depend on the circumstances and facts of your case which will all be taken into account by the District Judge who hears your case.