Even a small amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive. If you drink and then get behind the wheel of a car, you risk your life, the lives of your passengers and others on the road. Drink driving costs lives.

Drink driving - Remember!

  • Don't drink and drive. The only safe limit is none
  • Beware of the morning after. You could still be over the limit
  • Plan how to get home without the need to drive
  • Don't offer an alcoholic drink to someone you know is planning to drive
  • Don't accept a lift from a driver you know has drunk alcohol.

source: Devon and Cornwall Police website

Additional information

No, the police do not need any reason to stop any person driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road for a routine check. The police can then require that you provide your name, date of birth, driving licence and insurance details. Failure to comply with any of these requirements is an offence.

The police cannot stop a vehicle just to carry out a random breath test. They have to have a reasonable suspicion that the person has consumed alcohol or drugs. Once the vehicle has been stopped for, perhaps, a routine check, this can be ascertained through the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or glazed eyes. Failure to comply with a request to carry out breath test is an offence and the penalty is the same as if you had been convicted of being over the limit.

The police can, however, breathalyse a person without a reasonable suspicion that the person has consumed alcohol/drugs, if they have committed a traffic offence whilst the vehicle is in motion e.g. driving carelessly, having defective lights, failing to comply with a traffic sign or using a mobile phone.

If the engine is running then that is ‘attempting to drive’. If the engine is not running and the keys are not in the ignition, you will probably be found guilty of being ‘in charge’. There is no statutory definition of being ‘in charge’, it is a matter of circumstances and interpretation, depending on exactly what occurred at the time of the alleged offence.

Each case would be judged on its own merits but the officers would be looking at

  • Whether you had the keys for the vehicle,
  • Were you in the vehicle at the time
  • What were you doing at the time
  • Whether there was anyone else in or near the vehicle
  • Any evidence to show that you were intending to drive the vehicle.

What if the Police do not question me, or do not stop me, until sometime after the journey when I am no longer in the car or driving it?

Section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 allows a Police officer to require a breath test regardless of whether you are driving or "have been driving" or "have been in charge" of a motor vehicle.

The only safe limit of alcohol to have in your blood and drive is zero! It is not advisable to even have one drink and drive as alcohol impairs your judgement and lessens your reflexes. The legal amount of alcohol permitted is 35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath reading.  This cannot be translated into an exact amount of units as it depends on many factors - height and weight, time when last drink consumed etc, so the best advice is not to drink at all or order a taxi.

You can report the person to the police (anonymously if you wish). The information that the police require before they can act is the registration mark of the vehicle involved, the person’s name and if possible address and details of any regular journeys the person. The police can then wait for the vehicle somewhere on that route and stop it.

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