Scotland is getting tougher on drink driving. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about drink driving and the consequences.

Q. What is the new legislation?

Scotland’s drink drive limit has been lowered. The reduced limit came into effect on Friday 5 December 2014.

Q. What is the new lower limit?

The new limit is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The breath alcohol equivalent is 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, reduced from 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

Q. Why change the limit?

The Scottish Government is clear that we want a lower drink drive limit – bringing Scotland in line with the rest of Europe – because we believe it will save lives and will help make Scotland’s roads safer.

One death as a result of drink driving is one death too many, so we owe it to the people of Scotland to consider what action we can take to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads.

As a result of drink driving, an average of 20 families every year have to cope with the loss of a loved one and around 760 people are treated for injuries caused by someone who thought it was acceptable to drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel and drive. This cannot continue.

Q. Why reduce it to 50mg?

We think reducing the limit to a lower level of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml, to bring Scotland in line with the rest of Europe, is the right approach to ensure action can be taken against more drink drivers.

This new lower limit will allow the police, prosecutors and our courts to take more drivers off the road who pose a risk to public safety, but our main objective is to deter people from drinking and driving at all.

Q. Why didn’t you just bring in a zero limit?

Alcohol at any level impairs driving and our central message always has, and always will be, ‘don’t drink and drive’.

A zero limit would bring some difficulties as people’s response to alcohol varies depending on a range of matters including age, gender, weight, time of day, the time taken to consume alcohol and whether they have eaten. We want to avoid criminalising drivers who may have the remnants of alcohol in their system even though it is quite some time since they had a drink and very little alcohol actually remains in their system.

There is also a risk because there will be cases where an individual would register slightly above zero even when they had not been drinking; diabetes and the use of mouthwash can both cause an above-zero level.  It could make enforcement substantially more difficult.

Q. With the lower limit, how much can someone drink before they are over the limit?

The best approach is to have no alcohol at all if you’re intending to get behind the wheel – alcohol at any level impairs driving.

Everyone is different in the way they process and digest alcohol, so it’s very difficult to accurately estimate the effect of alcohol on your system – so the best approach is don’t drink any alcohol at all if you intend to get behind the wheel.

Q. What happens if you are only just over the limit?

Whether you are just over the limit or well over the limit, in the eyes of the law, you are a drunk driver and will receive a driving ban of at least 12 months.

Q. How is Scotland tough on drink/drug-driving?

All drivers caught drink/drug-driving will lose their licence, get a criminal record, and face a fine of up to £5000 and six months in prison. In Scotland, vehicles can also be forfeited to the crown if you are a repeat offender, or a first time offender who is three times the limit or more, or refuses to provide a sample for analysis.

Q. What is forfeiture?

Forfeiture is an initiative started for the 2009 Festive Campaign. Under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, authorities have the power to seize vehicles under a warrant issued by the court for drivers who are caught driving under the influence of drink or drugs if they are repeat offenders; they are three times the limit or more, or if they refuse to provide a specimen for analysis without a reasonable excuse. On conviction, the forfeited vehicle is sold or destroyed.

Q. How many people have been caught under the vehicle forfeiture scheme?

The scheme was extended in the summer of 2010 to include drug drivers and applies to anyone who is caught for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for a second time. Since then over 1000 vehicles have been seized.

Q. Why are you running a campaign and what is its aim?

The latest figures show that approximately 1 in 10 deaths on Scottish roads involve drivers who are over the legal limit. The risk of being involved in an accident increases rapidly when alcohol and/or drugs are consumed. The campaign aims to highlight the risks and consequences of driving under the influence of drink or drugs.

Q. What consequences/risks do drivers who are caught drink driving face?

A conviction for driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal alcohol limit will result in:

  • Loss of licence – an automatic 12 month driving ban
  • A risk of being fined up to £5,000
  • A criminal record – for a minimum of 20 years
  • An offence which stays on your licence for 11 years
  • A risk of imprisonment
  • A risk of having your car sold or crushed

The amount of drink taken makes no difference. Whether just over the limit or well over the limit, in the eyes of the law, you are still a convicted drunk-driver and the consequences are exactly the same. And if caught driving over the limit the next morning, you also face the same consequences as if you had been caught the night before.

Causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence of drink/drugs will result in a minimum 2 year driving ban and up to 14 years in prison with an unlimited fine. Having a criminal record can impact on your life, affecting relationships, job prospects, travel (for example to the USA), insurance premiums, hiring a car and social standing.

Q. Is there a drug driving limit?

Not at the moment but it is anticipated there will be next year. However, the police have a series of tests that can indicate if you are impaired through drugs and the penalties are exactly the same as they are for drink drivers.