Otherwise known as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), drink-driving in the UK is defined as the act of being in possession of a recognised mode of transport (a motorised vehicle such as a car, truck, boat, etc) while under the influence of alcohol. It can become a criminal offence when a subject is caught with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a legal limit. A conviction for drink-driving may not necessarily involve driving a vehicle; you can also be prosecuted in charge of a parked vehicle and/or failing to cooperate with the police in taking a preliminary roadside breath test.

As well as being against the law, drink-driving in excess has also scientifically been shown to greatly increase the risk of injury to all parties on the road. Despite a steady decline in the annual number of drink-driving accidents and fatalities to the lowest levels since records began, it remains the case that thousands of people are injured on the roads by drivers who drink, and the number of fatalities has stayed largely unchanged since 2010. In 2016, the drink drive limit was the subject of a campaign to lower it, featuring a broad coalition of non governmental organisations. For more information, please view our lower the limit campaign page.

The consumption of alcohol can have disruptive impact on other modes of transport, including air travel – as our Fit to fly report found – and on waterways too: boaters may be prosecuted under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 if their actions on the water are seen to be endangering other vessels, structures or individuals and they are under the influence of alcohol.

Resources available on this page:

  • Frequently Asked Questions about 'Transport', with infographics presenting the most up-to-date statistics on the subject
  • Factsheets providing an in depth perspective on the subject of 'Transport'
  • Publications, Blogs, and News tagged 'Transport' for further reading

Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the drink drive limits in the UK?
What are the drink drive limits in Europe?
What are the penalties for drink-driving?
How many people get convicted for drink-driving?
How many drink drive accidents and casualties occur on Britain's roads?
How have drink drive casualties changed over time?
Which road users are most likely to suffer injury from drink-driving accidents?
What proportion of road accident fatalities are caused by drink-driving?
How many drink drive fatalities involve drivers over the limit?
How much do drink drive casualties cost?
How many Brits witness the effects of excessive drinking on flights?

Publications (View all)

IAS response to Transport Select Committee ‘Road safety: young and novice drivers’ inquiry

IAS response to Transport Select Committee ‘Road safety: young and novice drivers’ inquiry

August 2019
Fit to fly? Summary report of the policy debate on alcohol and air travel

Fit to fly? Summary report of the policy debate on alcohol and air travel

August 2018

Blogs (View all)

News (View all)