When will I be safe to drive again after drinking on New Year's Eve? Drivers warned not to get caught out on New Year's Day

Even if you're not accustomed to drinking into the early hours, chances are New Year's Eve - and into New Year's Day - is the time you'll do it.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 31st December 2018, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 2:34 am

But while you might think a rare night of excess isn't something to worry about, it's best to think twice before you get behind the wheel on New Year's Day.

On average, it takes about one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol.

However, it can vary depending on your weight, whether you're male or female, your age, how quickly or slowly your metabolism (ie how your body turns food and drink into energy), how much food you have eaten, the type and strength of the alcohol, whether you're taking medication and what type, and if your liver is working normally.

The drink-driving limit for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine.

One unit equals 10 millilitres, or eight grams of pure alcohol. And as it varies from person to person and depending on circumstances, there’s no safe way to calculate how many units you can consume and remain below the legal alcohol limit, so the only way to stay perfectly safe and legal is to avoid alcohol altogether.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at price comparison site Confused.com, said: “New Year’s Day is a fresh start for a lot of people, but unfortunately some drivers are starting the year the wrong way. Our research found that in 2017, at least 98 drivers were arrested for being over the legal limit on New Year’s Day.

“With more than one in seven (15%) admitting to driving on NYD despite still feeling over the limit or hungover, there are a worrying number of drivers confused about how long they should wait between drinking alcohol and driving. We’ve created a morning-after calculator that gives an idea as to how much alcohol is still in your system.

"While no calculator is 100% accurate, it does give a view on how long alcohol typically takes to leave your body to give a quick indication of when you might be safe to drive.

“We don’t expect drivers to give up alcohol on New Year’s Eve, but we strongly advise they plan their night sensibly and make sure they are leaving enough time between drinking and driving the next morning, to eliminate the slightest chance they might still be over the limit.”

The following information is from the NHS UK website:

How much is one unit of alcohol?

One unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:

2.1 units in a standard glass (175ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

Three units in a large glass (250ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

Two units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)

Three units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)

One unit in a single measure of spirits (25ml)

Adding up your units

If you drink a large (250ml) glass of wine, your body takes about 3 hours to break down the alcohol.

If you drink 1 pint of beer, your body takes about 2 hours to break it down, 1 pint of strong lager is equivalent to 3 units, so this will take longer.

However, this time can vary, depending on the factors mentioned above.

If you have a few drinks during a night out, it can take many hours for the alcohol to leave your body. The alcohol could still be in your blood the next day.

This means that if you drive the day after an evening of drinking, you could be over the legal alcohol limit.