No one loves a drink driver

News from Brake

11 February 2016

Brake and Direct Line urge drivers not to risk their licence for love, as one in five get behind the wheel the morning after a big night out

A new survey from Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line has revealed one in five drivers have risked driving the “morning after” a night of heavy drinking, when they may still be over the limit. Almost one in ten (nine per cent) do it at least once a month and one in 20 (five per cent) take the risk on a weekly basis. 

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Sunday, many couples may choose to celebrate when they have to work the following day.  But if they share a bottle of wine, and maybe a couple of cocktails or beers, it could mean they are still over the limit the next day. If they have to drive to work or use a vehicle for their job they will be both a danger to themselves and other roads users, as well as breaking the law. 

The amount of time it takes for the body to break down alcohol depends on many different factors such as age, weight and metabolism but, as a rough guide, it takes around an hour to process a single unit. One drink, however, rarely contains just one unit of alcohol; it will take the body around three hours to break down the alcohol in a large glass of wine or a pint of strong lager.

If someone drives at 8 am after they have been drinking until midnight, there is a serious risk they could still have alcohol in their system and not be fit to drive. 12 per cent of people in our study said they would drive at 8am or even earlier.

Almost a third of drivers (32 per cent) very sensibly won’t drive at all the day after drinking, but 21 per cent would drive at 11am or earlier, when they could still be over the limit if they had drunk around 11 units and stopped drinking at around midnight.

One in eight drivers who fail a breath test are caught the morning after and more drivers have been caught over the limit after a crash between 6am and lunchtime on a Monday than on any other weekday for the last three years.[i]

Brake has developed a morning after calculator to help people work out when they will be safe to drive again.

Campaigns officer for Brake, the road safety charity Alice Bailey said: “If you drive first thing in the morning after a night of heavy drinking it’s highly likely you’ll still be over the limit. You’ll be a danger to yourself and all other road users and at a much higher risk of crashing. At worst, you could lose your life or take someone else’s. Even if that’s not the case, you could still lose your licence and potentially your livelihood. The advice is simple use public transport, or walk to work if you’ve been out on Sunday night or if you drive for work think about sharing a celebration much earlier in the day. Sleep, food, and caffeine will not sober you up, the only thing that will is time.  Don’t let this Valentine’s Day be your last.”

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line said: “If you can’t be sure that you won’t be over the drink-drive limit the morning after a few drinks, then don’t risk getting behind the wheel. That said, even if you can legally drive, it’s still better to make alternative travel arrangements, as even just being hungover or tired could have an adverse effect on your attention span and driving ability.”

Advice to drivers

Make sure you have completely got rid of any alcohol from your system before driving. Drinking coffee or water, sleeping or having a shower cannot sober you up. The only thing that will is time.  

Use Brake's interactive sober up resource to learn more about drink and drug-driving.

As a rough guide it takes an hour to process each UNIT of alcohol but you should always allow longer and err on the side of caution. Each drink you have may contain many units.

If you usually drive to work, consider using public transport, walking or taking a taxi to make sure you are not a danger to yourself or any other road users.

Penalties: In the UK if a driver is over the drink-drive limit, and/or driving while impaired by alcohol, they can receive a maximum penalty of six months in prison and an unlimited fine. Anyone convicted also receives an automatic one-year ban. If a driver kills someone while under the influence of alcohol, they can be charged with death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.


Notes to Editors:

Full survey results:

Q1: Within the past year, have you driven first thing in the morning after drinking a lot of alcohol the night before?

20% of drivers have risked driving while over the limit by driving the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

  • Yes, once a week or more       5%
  • Yes, about once a month         4%
  • Yes, less than once a month    1%
  • Yes, once or twice                  10%
  • No, never                                80%

 Q2: After drinking a lot of alcohol the night before, how long do you wait until driving the next day?

12% drive at 8am or earlier following a night of heavy drinking, putting themselves as serious risk of driving with alcohol still in their body.

  • I don’t wait – I drive as soon as I need to        4%
  • Until around 5am                                             1%
  • Until around 8am                                             7%
  • Until around 11am                                           9%
  • Until the afternoon                                          11%
  • Until the evening                                              4%
  • I don’t drive at all the day after drinking a lot of alcohol the night before       32%
  • I never drink a lot of alcohol                            33%

About Brake

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting

End notes

[i]  (Table RAS51003)


Tags: Drink-Drive research alcohol