Health

Half of us can’t judge drink-drive limit and believe safe to get behind the wheel after boozing

Half of us can’t judge drink-drive limit and believe we are safe to get behind the wheel after boozing, study suggests

  • Alcohol experiment shows half of us can’t judge limit before going behind wheel
  • Research found up to 53 per cent wrongly believed safe to drive after drinking 
  • In the run-up to Christmas, police are cracking down on drink and drug-driving 


Working out how much is safe to drink before driving is always a gamble – but now a study has revealed just how wrong we can get it.

Researchers asked 90 people to drink beer or wine or both and speak up when they thought they were over the limit. 

Astonishingly, the experiment found up to 53 per cent wrongly believed they were safe to drive.

Researchers asked 90 people to drink beer or wine or both and speak up when they thought they were over the limit (file image)

The study’s authors suggest that encouraging people to think more about how much they’ve drunk rather than how they feel may help them to judge their fitness to drive better. 

Dr Kai Hensel, who led the study from Cambridge University and Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, told the Harm Reduction Journal: ‘These findings show the importance of thinking carefully about getting behind the wheel.’

In the run-up to Christmas, police are cracking down on drink and drug-driving and targeting known hotspots. Last year 6,730 drivers were caught breaking the law.

Dr Hensel added: “In countries with legal alcohol limits, it’s usually the driver who makes a judgment about how much they’ve drunk and how fit they are to drive.

“But as we’ve shown, we are not always good at making this judgment. As many as one in two people in our study underestimated how drunk they were – and this can have devastating consequences.”

Department for Transport figures show the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) in drink-drive crashes on Britain’s roads reached an eight-year high in 2019.

There were about 2,050 KSI casualties in collisions where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit, an 8% increase on the previous year and is the highest level since 2011.

The researchers in Germany noticed that participants became poorer at estimating their breath alcohol concentration the drunker they became.

Dr Hensel warned that this could have “serious consequences” in countries with higher legal driving limits.

The limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, while no other part of Europe has a limit above 50mg/100ml.

In 2014, the Scottish Government reduced the limit to 50mg/100ml.

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