How many drinks can I have if I’m driving?


There are strict alcohol limits in the UK for drivers, and for good reason. Whilst you may feel safe to drive after a couple of drinks, many of the bodily functions that you depend on to drive safely will be affected.

It’s not possible to calculate how many units of alcohol will put you over the drink drive limit, as it varies depending on several factors. These include:

  • Your age, weight, sex, and metabolism
  • The amount and type of alcohol you consume
  • How much you eat, and the type of food

There are, however, some very approximate guidelines that should help you to determine whether you’re safe to drive.

It’s recommended that you give yourself at least an hour per unit of alcohol before you get behind the wheel. So, if you’ve had a small glass of wine worth 1.5 units, you should wait for about 2 hours before driving. Similarly, if you’ve had a couple of pints of low-strength lager at 2 units each, you should wait 4 hours.

How many units are in each type of alcoholic drink?

To help you calculate how long you’ll have to wait before driving after alcohol, take a look at the table below. This tells you roughly how many units are in each type of alcoholic drink.

Type of drink Number of alcohol units
Single shot of spirits (25ml, ABV40%)


1 unit
Small glass of white/red/rosé wine (125ml, ABV12%)


1.5 units
Alcopop (275ml, ABV5.5%)


1.5 units
Bottle of beer/lager/cider (330ml, ABV5%)


1.7 units
Can of beer/lager/cider (440ml, ABV5.5%)


2 units
Pint of lower-strength beer/lager/cider (ABV3.6%)


2 units
Standard glass of white/red/rosé wine (175ml, ABV12%)


2.1 units
Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%)


3 units
Large glass of white/red/rosé wine (250ml, ABV12%) 3 units

What’s the drink drive limit in the UK?

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the drink driving alcohol limits are:

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 35 micrograms in 100 millilitres of breath
  • 107 milligrams in 100 millilitres of urine

Am I safe to drive after drinking?

The safest way to be absolutely sure that you’re safe to drive is to avoid alcohol completely if you plan to get behind the wheel.

It’s also important to remember that if you’ve had several drinks, there could be enough alcohol remaining in your system to put you over the legal limit the following morning.

In the UK, the police have the power to randomly stop your vehicle, and can make a requirement that you comply with a preliminary breath test if they suspect that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

If you are found guilty of drink driving, the consequences can be very severe. For information on drink driving sentencing guidelines, click on the link provided.

Is it worth getting a lawyer for a drink driving offence?

Yes, absolutely. If you are charged with a drink driving related offence, you should seek legal advice from a specialist drink driving solicitor as soon as possible. Even if you believe you are guilty of the offence of drink driving, do not assume that pleading guilty and accepting a driving ban is your only option.

MAJ Law are expert motoring defence solicitors, specialising in defending drink driving cases, with very high success rates. For free initial advice, get in touch with their expert team today.

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