Drink-drive limit in Scotland

Last updated: 14 December 2020

Scotland has a zero tolerance approach to drink driving.

How much you can drink when driving

You cannot safely drink any alcohol when driving.

Alcohol affects everyone in a different way.

One drink can put you over the limit.

How many drinks equals the limit

The limit is not how much you can drink when driving. It cannot be changed into drinks or units.

The limit is about how much alcohol is allowed in your body when driving. This shows in your breath, blood and urine.

The same drink can create different levels of alcohol for different people.

This depends on:

  • your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy)
  • the type of alcohol you drink
  • what you've eaten
  • medication
  • your stress levels
The only way to be sure you're not over the limit is to avoid drinking any alcohol when driving.

Why the drink drive limit is not zero

Any alcohol impairs driving. But it would be unfair to have a zero limit. There's more than one reason why drivers could have alcohol in their body other than from drinking.

These reasons can vary for each person.

You could have traces of alcohol in your body even though it's been some time since you've had a drink and there's little alcohol actually left in your body.

You could even consume alcohol without knowing it. Some foods, mouthwash and medications can contain alcohol.

Many things can also affect how quickly your body gets rid of alcohol. This includes weight, age and your sex.

The limit helps police take action against those drivers who have drunk alcohol which has then impaired their driving.

Current drink drive limit

The current limit is:

  • 22 microgrammes (mcg) of alcohol in 100 ml of breath
  • 50 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol in 100ml of blood
  • 67 milligrammes (mg) in 100 ml of urine

Everybody processes alcohol in a different way. For example, 2 people who drink the same pint of beer can show different alcohol levels in the body.

You'll commit a crime if you're over this limit.

Driving the morning after

Alcohol can take up to 24 hours or even longer to leave your body. You can be above the limit even if you're driving the day after drinking.

Get advice about driving the morning after from the Drink Aware website.

Alcohol breath test

Police can carry out a roadside breath test if:

  • you commit a traffic offence
  • you are involved in an accident
  • they think you may be impaired by alcohol

If you fail the roadside test or refuse to take it, the police can arrest you. They'll take you to the station to give you 2 more breath tests using an advanced breathalyser.

The police will charge you if you fail the tests at the station or refuse to take them.

What happens if you're convicted of drink driving

Drink driving is a criminal offence with serious penalties:

  • you'll get a minimum 12-month driving ban
  • you could go to prison for up to 6 months or get a fine of up to £5000 - or both
  • the offence stays on your licence for 11 years
  • you might lose your vehicle

Drink drive limit in the rest of the UK

The drink drive limits for the rest of the UK are different to Scotland.

Report drink driving

Find out how to report a crime.

Get further help

Drink Aware website

Road Safety Scotland website