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UK Drink & Drug Drive Hotspots Revealed

Drink/drug drive convictions by region plus the legal limits, the dangers of falling foul and tougher new penalties

Sunderland has most drink/ drug drivers

The United Kingdom’s drink and drug drive hotspots have been revealed as the government proposes tougher, life, sentences for offenders that kill – but can you tell if you are over the legal limits? MoneySuperMarket.com – a price comparison site – claims Sunderland has the highest proportion of dangerous, convicted, offenders based on information provided for motor insurance quotes.

In Sunderland for every 1,000 quotes, 2.91 motorists have a conviction for drink/drug driving. Sunderland is followed by Truro, Coventry and Blackburn. See the table below for additional details.

RankPostal RegionPostal Region CodeRate Per 1,000 Insurance Quotes
1SunderlandSR2.91
2TruroTR2.60
3CoventryCV2.53
4BlackburnBB2.46
5ClevelandTS2.30
6CreweCW2.29
7WiganWN2.26
8WakefieldWF2.24
9ReadingRG2.21
10WolverhamptonWV2.12

Dangers of drink/drug driving

The THINK! Safety Campaign says “a second drink can double your chance of a fatal collision”. It slows reaction times, makes it hard to concentrate and inhibits judgement. Furthermore, some illegal and prescription drugs limit your prowess behind the steering wheel. Cocaine inspires too much confidence, for starters.

Drink-drive limits and penalties

Throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland the drink drive limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. In Scotland, the limit is only 22 microgrammes. THINK!, however, confirms that “it is not possible to say how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the legal limit”. Influencing factors include:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Metabolism
  • Type of alcohol
  • Food recently consumed
  • Stress levels

A conviction comes in various forms and leads to a range of penalties. Consider “being in charge of a vehicle while above the limit or unfit through drink”, for example. An offender could face:

  • Imprisonment (3 months)
  • Fine (£2,500)
  • Driving ban

More serious offences include “causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink”. The potential consequences are:

  • Imprisonment (14 years)
  • Fine (unlimited)
  • Driving ban (at least 2 years)
  • Extended driving test before any licence is returned

Drug drive limits and penalties

England and Wales drug drive limits – for both illegal and prescription substances – have been confirmed via the tables below.

Illegal SubstanceThreshold limit in microgrammes per-litre of blood (µg/L)
benzoylecgonine50µg/L
cocaine10µg/L
delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (cannabis)2µg/L
ketamine20µg/L
lysergic acid diethylamide1µg/L
methylamphetamine10µg/L
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)10µg/L
6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin)5µg/L

Medicinal Substance

Threshold limit in microgrammes per-litre of blood (µg/L)

clonazepam

50µg/L

diazepam

550µg/L

flunitrazepam

300µg/L

lorazepam

100µg/L

methadone

500µg/L

morphine

80µg/L

oxazepam

300µg/L

temazepam

1,000µg/L


The legal consequences of falling foul could be: imprisonment (6 months), a fine (unlimited) and a ban (minimum 1 year). Furthermore, the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving whilst under the influence of drugs is up to 14 years imprisonment.

New life sentence

Some penalties look set to change, though. The government proposes raising “the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years to life”.

A drink/drug drive conviction has further potential consequences even if nobody is killed or seriously injured. Punishments include:

  • Loss of employment
  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of independence
  • Increased cost of motor insurance

Safety message

The THINK! Safety Campaign emphasises that it is impossible to be certain whether (say) a couple of drinks has put you above the legal limit. The same applies to illegal substances. “If you’re driving it is better to have none for the road”, it therefore says.

Furthermore, care is required – alongside medical advice – to stay safe and legal if taking prescription drugs for legitimate reasons.