Driving & the Festive Party Season

Published On : 14 Dec 2023

If you have employees driving company vehicles or driving for work, your driver handbook should insist that employees don’t drink any alcohol at all whilst they are working.

Whilst the vast majority of people would follow this approach, many people take a different view the following morning, and yet various studies over the past 20 years have shown that between 14 and 20% of all drink drive convictions relate to offences committed “the morning after”.

As the festive party season is invariably linked to an increase in drinking, it stands to reason that this increases the possibilities of a post-party drink drive conviction for one of your employees.

Drink Driving

There is no way to know how much you can drink and stay under the limit, since it can depend on your weight, age, metabolism, the amount of food you've eaten and other factors.

There are websites that can provide some guidance on how long it might take to metabolise various alcoholic drinks, and whilst the guidance is just that, it is quite illuminating to see that drinking 5 pints of premium beer on one website could take 15 hours before the person was below the legal limit, and 3 large glasses of wine could take 11 hours to metabolise.

It's simply impossible to get alcohol out of your system quickly, it always takes time. A shower, a cup of coffee or other ways of ‘sobering up’ may make you feel better, but won’t remove the alcohol from your system.

If you've been out drinking, you may still be affected by alcohol the next day and could lose your licence if you drive and are still over the legal limit.

Legal Alcohol Limit For Driving
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 22 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath

Drug Driving

The use of recreational drugs also represents a potential problem for both employers (who could end up with the extra costs of replacing employees who can’t drive for a time) as well as for the individual driver.

It's an offence to drive with any of 17 controlled drugs above a specified level in your blood. This includes illegal and legally prescribed drugs.

The limit set for each drug is different, and for illegal drugs the limits set are extremely low. They aren't zero to rule out any accidental exposure (e.g. from passive smoking).

You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure about whether your prescription or over-the-counter medication will affect your ability to drive.

The police can stop you and conduct a roadside screening test or a field impairment test, both of which may result in your arrest if:

  • they think you have taken drugs
  • you’ve committed a traffic offence
  • you’ve been involved in a road traffic collision

Officers can test for cannabis and cocaine at the roadside, and screen for other drugs – including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin – at a police station.

Even if you pass the roadside check you may still be arrested if the police suspect that your driving is impaired by drugs and you can be taken to a police station for further tests.

What are the cost implications?

For the employer, you will incur additional costs having to replace any employees that are banned from driving, and if they do remain with you, your fleet insurers will likely impose increased excesses and additional premiums to cover any driver with a DR or DD type conviction, and depending on the nature of the conviction, you might not be able to get cover at all.

For the employee, this could potentially be catastrophic, with the personal finance cost of drink/drug driving could be as high as £70,000 or more when taking into account fines, legal fees, higher car insurance premiums, alternative transport costs and potential loss of earnings following conviction2.

IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, found that costs following a drink drive conviction now include; fines of £5,000, although since these are now unlimited this could be much more; legal fees of £11,000 which is the average following conviction after a not-guilty plea; increased insurance premiums of £13,500 over five years after a driving disqualification; £2,000 for taxi and public transport costs for alternative transport during a ban; and £38,500 loss of earnings for 15 months following a conviction, based on an average UK salary3.

For more information get in touch with the OAMPS team today.

1 Drink Driving: The Law, Think.gov (2022)  
2 Drink Driving: The Facts, Think.gov (2022)
3 IAM Roadsmart, The true cost of your drink  (2020)

This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Pen Underwriting Limited and OAMPS, part of Pen Underwriting Limited, accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.

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