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The only safe limit of alcohol to have in your blood and drive is zero!

It is not advisable to even have one drink and drive as alcohol impairs your judgement and lessens your reflexes. The official amount of alcohol is 35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath reading, this cannot be translated into an exact amount of units as it depends on many factors, height and weight, the time when last drink was consumed etc, so the best advice is not to drink at all or to order a taxi.


Many people go out on a weekend and drink more than half the weekly recommended units of alcohol in one night, this is a phenomenon known as 'binge drinking'. If you go out on a weekend and drink for drinking's sake or consume lots of alcohol in a short space of time then you could be a binge drinker.

In the UK, binge drinking is drinking more than:

  • 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men
  • 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women

Apart from the obvious risks to your health, it does not automatically follow that you have a problem with alcohol if you binge drink, although statistics do show that some binge drinkers go on to be chronic binge drinkers and develop a serious problem with alcohol.

However, you should be aware of the dangers of too much alcohol, not only to your health but also to your personal safety. When under the influence of alcohol you are more likely:

  • to have unprotected sex;
  • to be injured in accidents;
  • to be more vulnerable to violent crime (both as a victim and an offender).

Alcoholics Anonymous have a very good phrase, 'If alcohol is costing you more than money, then you have a problem'.


If a police constable reasonably suspects you are/have been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public road and:

  • You are under the influence of alcohol or drugs e.g. breath smells of alcohol, or
  • You have committed a moving traffic offence e.g. going through a red light, or
  • You have been involved in an accident

The PC can require that you take a preliminary breath test, field impairment test (FIT) or chemical drug test - PC must be in uniform to conduct these tests but not following an accident.

The police cannot stop a vehicle just to carry out a random breath test. They have to have a reasonable suspicion that the person has consumed alcohol or drugs. However, once the vehicle has been stopped for, perhaps, a routine check, this can be ascertained through the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or glazed eyes etc. Failure to comply with a request to carry out a breath test is an offence and the penalty is the same as if you had been convicted of being over the limit.


It is an offence to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18. If you know an off-licence that is selling alcohol to a person under the age of 18, you should contact your local police force or Trading Standards Office who will take the details. The person that is selling the alcohol to those under 18 could face a fine.


If you have spotted signs that your child/friend is drinking too much, there are several organisations that can provide help and support. Details of these organisations can be found in the Related Information.

GP's may also advise on the options available and signpost you to local support services, both for immediate help and long term support.


Whilst not recommended, children aged 5 to 16 are allowed to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises. Although there may be no offence of supplying alcohol, there may be issues relating to child protection.

It is advisable to contact the parents of the children involved to inform them of the situation. If you are concerned, you can also contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or you can report it directly to them via the following link: NSPCC Helpline

Contact your local police force

Enter your town or postcode to see information from your local force

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