Understanding the dangers of Drink Driving

Computer illustration of brain cross-section in blue, glowing, human head.

Published 18 April 2023
Last updated 22 March 2024

In this blog we’ll look at the impact alcohol has on your driving. We’ll also explore what drink driving means for you and other road users.

How alcohol affects driving

So, let’s start with an obvious question: why should you avoid drinking and driving?

The best answer to that is to look at the stats. According to data hosted on GOV.UK, 2020 saw 4,620 collisions involving a drink driver. Of these collisions, 200 were fatal.

The bottom line is that the moment you get in a car and drive, you’re making demands on your ability to concentrate, operate the vehicle and respond to hazards. Because drinking affects your reaction times, vision, and ability to concentrate, it means your ability to focus on what boffins call the ‘driving task’ is severely compromised. That’s (mostly!) fine if you plan to do nothing more than sit in the pub and enjoy a few jars with your mates, but it’s dangerous when you’re in charge of a moving vehicle.

Oh, and there’s more: according to Drinkaware, an intoxicated person is also more likely to engage in risk taking behaviour after drinking, which can result in dangerous driving behaviours.

Why do our reactions slow?

When we drink alcohol:

  • Our brains take longer to receive messages from our eyes
  • Processing information becomes more difficult
  • Our reaction times are slower due to delayed information processing.

Information processing is a *really* important part of hazard perception. When it slows down, it becomes difficult to detect and respond to hazards. It won’t matter whether you’re on a fast-moving road full of vehicles or a quiet rural road either. If you can’t spot developing hazards (or control your vehicle), you run a considerable risk of creating an incident or being involved in one.

If you want to understand a bit more about information processing (and why it’s a crucial part of safe driving), head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving.

How to stay safe

Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to drive and there is no reliable way to drink and stay within the limit. The advice from the police is clear: avoid alcohol altogether if you plan to drive. If you need to have transport, try these top tips to enjoy a happy night out.

  • Have a designated driver. Choose a friend or family member who’ll go alcohol-free for the evening to drive you home safely – or be that person yourself.
  • Try alcohol-free drinks. There’s never been more choice when it comes to alcohol-free beers, wine and mocktails. Choosing something non-alcoholic means you’ll be safe to drive.
  • If you go out regularly with the same group, you can take it in turns to drive. Even better, lots of pubs offer free or discounted soft drinks for the designated driver
  • If you think you are going to drink, take a taxi, hire a mini cab or use public transport. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have the number or app of your favourite cab company saved in your phone, and enough battery to last the night.

And remember, if you do drink, there could still be enough alcohol in your system the next morning to mean you’re over the limit, and not safe to drive.

Last Orders

Well that just about wraps up this blog, but if you want to learn more, we have lots of splendid resources to help you. To explore the pitfalls of drink driving, check out our blog pages. You can also read up about drink driving and many other important topics in the Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills and The Official Highway Code.

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