Driving under the influence of alcohol

The legal drink-driving limit in Scotland is 50mg per 100ml of blood (equivalent to 22mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath). It’s a limit set to cover different metabolism rates and conditions that may affect the absorption rate of alcohol.

A drink-drive conviction can lead to unemployment, humiliation, guilt and have a devastating impact on your friends and family.

Even having one drink can put you over the limit so the best approach is none.


Unlike many driving offences, drink-driving is a criminal offence. If found guilty, you’ll face tough penalties – even if it’s a first offence:

  • A minimum 12-month driving ban
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An unlimited fine
  • An offence which stays on your licence for 11 years
  • Potential loss of your vehicle

Police Response

If you have committed a traffic offence, been involved in an accident, or they suspect you are impaired by drink, Police Scotland can carry out a roadside breath test. Anyone who fails the test, or refuses to take it, may be arrested and taken to a police station to provide a further two breath tests using a more advanced breathalyser.

Failure or refusal to take the tests at this stage will result in charges being brought.


Reporting drink-driving

If you see someone getting into their car after drinking, you should take action.

Suggest that they choose an alternative way of getting where they’re going – or you could alert nearby bar staff, security staff or call the police. Before dialling the police, make sure you have noted:

  • The car registration number
  • A description of the person
  • A description of the vehicle
  • The location

Did you know?

  • Driving over the limit, you are six times more likely to die in a road accident.
  • Just one drink before driving can affect you in the following ways: slower reaction times; blurred vision; being unable to judge speed and distances properly; loss of concentration; difficulty in making rational decisions; impaired coordination; increased risk-taking.
  • Alcohol can take up to 24 hours or even longer to leave your system. It’s possible to be above the limit even if you’re driving the day after drinking.
  • Eating does not absorb alcohol. Alcohol will have the same effect on you, whether you drink with food or not.
  • It’s a myth that coffee, cold showers or being in fresh air help you to sober up or get alcohol out of your system more quickly. They don’t. The only thing that does is time.
  • The best way to avoid drink-driving is to plan ahead before you go out. Ways to get home safely include: using public transport; arranging a taxi, nominating a designated driver; staying at a friend’s house or hotel.

Support the campaign

Get behind Gran and show some support for our #DRIVESMART campaign. We’ve launched a handy toolkit that explains more about the campaign. It includes key messages, social media posts, and newsletter copy.