A Guide to Drink Driving Limits in the UK | comparethemarket.com

A guide to drink driving and the UK laws

If you’ve been convicted of drink driving, you’ll probably find your car insurance premiums become more expensive. We’re here to help you find affordable cover.

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Frequently thought questions

Sometimes questions pop into our heads about things we think we should know the answers to – like drink driving. And when you really don’t know the answer you might try and blag it – which is never a good idea. So, let’s take some frequently thought questions about drinking and driving and find out the facts.

What are the legal alcohol limits in the UK?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the alcohol limit if you’re driving is:

80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in your body
35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath
107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine

In Scotland, the legal limit is in line with most other European countries and is:

50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in your body
22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
67 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of urine

What are the penalties for drink driving?

Provisional estimates indicate that in 2016 there were 6,080 drink-driving related accidents and around 230 people were killed because of drink-driving. It’s understandable, then, why the penalties for drink driving are harsh.


If you’re caught driving while over the legal alcohol limit you could face points on your licence (which could stay on your licence for up to 11 years), a fine, imprisonment and a possible ban on driving; if it’s your second conviction for drink driving in 10 years, you could be banned from driving for three years. If you’re disqualified from driving for 12 months or more, a judge might offer to reduce the ban if you agree to take a drink drive rehabilitation course, but you’ll have to pay for the course.


If you cause death by careless driving when under the influence of drink, depending on the circumstances, you could face 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, points on your licence and a minimum two-year ban – plus you’ll have to take an extended driving test before you can get your driving licence back.

It’s also worth noting that if you refuse to take a breath test or give a sample of blood or urine, this can be treated just as severely as if you fail a drink drive test. You could face an unlimited fine, a 12-month driving ban, and even six months in prison.

How does a drink driving conviction affect my car insurance?

A drink driving conviction (or a DR10 penalty) is likely to result in a significant increase in the cost of your car insurance and can make insurance difficult to find. In fact, any criminal conviction, whether related to driving or not, can make insurance more expensive.

Your current provider could refuse to renew your insurance after a drink drive conviction. If that happens, you’ll need to shop around or consider a specialist provider. The hard truth is that whoever agrees to insure you, getting cover with a conviction is likely to be expensive and you may also have to pay a higher voluntary excess.

If you agree to take a drink drive rehabilitation course, this could be in your favour as some insurance providers may see this as a positive thing.

How can I reduce the cost of drink driving insurance?

If you have a drink driving conviction, there are steps that you can take that might lower the cost of car insurance. You could add an experienced named driver with a spotless driving record to your policy, which may lower the cost. Or you might be able to reduce your premium post-conviction by limiting your mileage – the fewer miles you do, the lower your premium is likely to be. But be truthful, saying you only expect to do 5,000 miles when you drive for four hours every day could invalidate your policy, and you might find it even more difficult to find car insurance in the future.

How can I find insurance for drink drivers?

Finding car insurance after you’ve been convicted of drink driving might prove tricky, but you can start by comparing car insurance with us. We’ll ask for details about you and your car, and you’ll need to tell us about your driving-related convictions. We’ll use this information to generate a range of quotes, but be aware that you might be restricted by the amount of policies on offer. You may need to go to a specialist broker or insurance provider if standard providers are unable to offer you insurance.