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Half of us can’t judge the drink-driving limit and believe it’s safe to get behind the wheel after drinking

Half of us can’t assess drink-driving limit and believe we can safely get behind the wheel after drinking, study suggests

  • Alcohol experiment shows half of us can’t judge the limit before getting behind the wheel
  • Research found that up to 53 percent wrongly believed it was safe to drive after drinking
  • In the run-up to Christmas, the police tackle driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs


It’s always a gamble to find out how much is safe to drink before driving, but now a study has shown how wrong we could be.

Researchers asked 90 people to drink beer or wine or both and say something if they thought they were over the limit.

Amazingly, the experiment found that up to 53 percent wrongly believed they were safe to drive.

Researchers asked 90 people to drink beer or wine or both and say something if they thought they were over the limit (file image)

The study authors suggest that encouraging people to think more about how much they’ve drunk rather than how they feel may help them assess 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 how important it is to think carefully about getting behind the wheel.”

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

dr. Hensel added: “In countries with legal alcohol limits, it is usually the driver who assesses how much they have drunk and how fit they are to drive.

“But as we’ve shown, we’re 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.”

Figures from the Department for Transport show that the number of deaths or serious injuries (CSI) in drink-driving accidents on UK roads in 2019 reached an eight-year high.

There were approximately 2,050 KSI casualties in crashes where at least one driver exceeded the alcohol limit, an 8% increase from the previous year and the highest level since 2011.

The researchers in Germany noticed that participants got worse at estimating their breath alcohol concentration as they got drunk.

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 alcohol per 100ml of blood, while no other part of Europe has a limit above 50mg/100ml.

In 2014, the Scottish government lowered the limit to 50 mg/100 ml.

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