SurreyLive spoke to a motoring lawyer and Surrey Roads Policing Unit sergeant to set right a few common myths
Breaking the law when it comes to drink and drug driving is a serious offence that can cost lives.
But how well do you know the law when it comes to drink and drug driving?
There are several misconceptions and little known facts about exceeding the limits, so SurreyLive has enlisted the help of a motoring law expert and a Surrey Roads Policing Unit sergeant to debunk these myths.
To test whether drivers are over the limit, the police can measure how much alcohol you have consumed by taking breath tests, and blood and urine samples.
The limits for each test are as follows:
Per 100ml of breath, 35 micrograms of alcohol is the limit.
Per 100ml of blood, 80 of alcohol is the limit.
Per 100ml of urine, 107 milligrammes is the limit.
Let’s get to the myths.
1. The limits are the same wherever I drive in the UK
Wrong. In Scotland the limits are a lot lower. The above figures are for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But in Scotland, per 100ml of breath 22 micrograms of alcohol is the limit. Per 100ml of blood, 50 milligrammes of alcohol is the limit. Per 100ml of urine, 67 milligrammes is the limit.
If you have been banned by any UK
2. I am safe to drive the morning after
This is false.
Surrey Roads Policing Unit sergeant Dan Pascoe said it is “impossible” to put a figure on how many hours it is safe to drive after consuming drink or drugs because “there are so many variables”.
He said: “Alcohol and drugs are very different. From experience, an absolute minimum of 12 hours from your last alcoholic drink before driving, and longer if consumption has been high. A minimum of 72 hours after taking drugs. Having a shower doesn’t help at all.”
David Barton, a motoring lawyer with 38 years of experience, said: “What people often do is underestimate how long it takes the body to get rid of alcohol effects.
“It is not the effect of sleep that gets rid of it, it takes time and it all depends on the individual. For example, men do metabolise it quicker than women.
“The rate at which you metabolise the alcohol depends on factors including your body mass, metabolic rate and your age – the older you are the quicker you will metabolise it.”
He added that people “underestimate” and “talk it down” the morning after.
court due to drink driving, you cannot drive anywhere in the UK.
“You may feel better because you have slept, but the body is slow sometimes at metabolising the alcohol,” he said.
“I have done a lot of cases where some people have had a doze on the train, thinking getting in an hour or so of sleep will help them, but it makes very little difference.”
Mr Barton believes drink driving instances have gone down but “morning after offences have gone up”.
“There is a far greater awareness about drink driving. But the morning after, people do not know because they have not really kept a careful track of what they have consumed,” he said.
3. Water, coffee or food helps me stay below the limit
This is not true. Mr Barton said although the effects of water, coffee or food will make you feel physically better, physiologically your alcohol levels will not have been significantly affected.
He said: “Food makes you feel better but it does not affect the consumption of alcohol. It is the same with coffee. Caffeine will make you feel more alert but it does not affect alcohol levels.”
Mr Pascoe agreed it is a myth. He said: “Having a glass of water will do nothing (or very little) to change your blood alcohol limit.”
4. Sucking on a coin will give me a more favourable breathalyser test result
This is a myth, and Mr Pascoe has witnessed first-hand individuals attempting to use this ‘trick’.
He said: “Sucking on a 2p coin doesn’t work. I’ve watched someone vigorously suck on a dirty 2p coin for 30 minutes while being booked into custody, only for their evidential reading to be higher than the initial (non evidential) roadside reading.”
5. The one pint rule
It is generally recognised if you go over a pint you are taking a risk, but this should not be a blanket rule.
This is due to reasons already stated – each individual’s limit varies depending on a variety of factors, including age.
Mr Pascoe said: “Each person is different and for some, having a single pint could result in their arrest.”
6. What happens if I am in my car, over the limit, but not driving?
You can still be arrested. It is an offence to be in charge of a vehicle while being over the permitted limit.
Mr Barton said he has had cases where this has happened, for example an individual who was drunk and had fallen asleep in their car.
If you are drunk and found to be in charge of the vehicle, you are committing an offence even if the vehicle is not moving.
7. I can only commit a drug driving offence after consuming illegal drugs?
Untrue, it is also illegal to drive in England, Scotland and Wales with legal drugs in your system if it impairs your driving.
It is also an offence to drive if you have more than the specified limits of certain drugs in your blood and you have not been prescribed them.
Mr Barton said: “For prescription drugs you can also be over the legal limit. The legal limits for prescribed drugs are set quite high. But I did have one case which involved an individual who had taken too much insulin, which they were taking because they had diabetes.”
The police can pull you over and conduct a saliva roadside test to screen for cannabis or cocaine.
If the police officers believe you are unfit to drive because you have taken drugs, they can arrest you and take you to the station for a blood and urine test.
8. Drugs leave my system as quickly as alcohol
It is a myth to think taking drugs on the weekend means you are safe to drive the next Monday.
Unlike alcohol, drugs take days to leave your system and so it can be a while before you are safely within the driving limit.
Mr Barton said: “With cannabis and cocaine the effects of them stay in the body longer than alcohol. If an individual has a smoke on the weekend, three days later they could still be over the limit. Secondary smoking could also be a problem.”
9. I am fine if the roadside drug test returns negative
Wrong. Although the roadside drug test can only screen for cocaine and cannabis, the police can arrest you if they think you are unfit to drive and take you to the station for a blood and urine test.
“As the body metabolises, it turns the drugs into other products and blood tests can detect these,” said Mr Barton.
10. Can passengers drink while I drive?
Mr Barton said there is no law prohibiting passengers from drinking when you are driving.
However, if you are distracted while behind the wheel the police can prosecute you for careless driving if they believe you are not in control of the vehicle.
“Passengers can do whatever they like. If there are two or three people drinking then yes you do run that risk of being pulled over,” Mr Barton said.
And what about the driver drinking at the wheel, but remaining below the limit?
Mr Pascoe said: “There is no specific offence of consuming alcohol while driving, however it is strongly advised against and the driver could be committing other offences.”
11. How do I dispute my drink or drug driving charge?
There is very little room for defence when it comes to these offences.
According to Mr Barton, the breathalysers are “second generation devices” which are “very accurate”.
“A defence could be ‘I was not actually driving’,” he said. “You can challenge breath test results, for example, an individual might say ‘it must be wrong because I did not drink enough to produce those results’ – but this is difficult to make out.”
He added: “There is a legal presumption that the result of the devices are accurate. The other possible line of defence is the police did not follow proper procedure.”
12. There are more drink driving offences at Christmas
This is hard to answer robustly. But Mr Barton said he has noticed a “little” spike at Christmas, and in the summer – when people are drinking at barbecues or in their gardens.
13. I had an accident that wasn’t my fault but I was over the limit
As a driver you will always be tested in an accident.
“If the other driver causes the accident and police arrive they will breathalyse both drivers. If it was not your fault, but you are over the limit, you will still be arrested,” Mr Barton said.
Article Courtesy of Surrey Live