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Explainer: As gardaí issue new safety warning, how soon can you drive after drinking alcohol?


Drink/drug driving checkpoint (Stock image)

Drink/drug driving checkpoint (Stock image)

Garda breathalyser. Stock picture

Garda breathalyser. Stock picture


Drink/drug driving checkpoint (Stock image)

An Garda Síochána has issued a fresh warning to the public about drinking and driving at a time of rising road deaths in Ireland as experts warn “the effects of alcohol on driving can linger on long after a night out”.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has expressed deep concern about the number of road deaths so far this year.

Gardaí say that driving while intoxicated is a major factor in fatal and serious injury collisions on our roads.

One standard drink is enough to put someone at risk of going over the limit, which includes a glass (half pint) of beer, a small glass of wine (100ml) or a pub measure of spirits (35.5ml).

According to the HSE, it takes most people one to two hours to process one standard drink and after you stop drinking, the alcohol levels in your system can continue to rise for up to three hours.

There are many factors that will affect this time including age, gender, weight, alcohol strength, the speed of your metabolism and the number of drinks consumed.

If a person had their last drink at midnight and had consumed three pints of lager or stout which equates to six standard drinks, they could expect to be under the legal limit to drive by 6am the following morning.

If another person had four glasses of wine and finished drinking at 11pm, this equates to eight standard drinks.

The person could expect to be under the legal limit of 50mg by 7am the next morning.

There is nothing you can do to remove alcohol from your body any quicker, only time.

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Garda breathalyser. Stock picture

Garda breathalyser. Stock picture

Garda breathalyser. Stock picture

Common myths are that drinking coffee, having a shower, eating a big breakfast or going for a run will sober you up but aren’t true.

Almost half of all arrests for driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) take place between midnight and 6am. One in 10 DUI arrests are made between 8am and 2pm, with a peak on Sundays.

Checkpoints will continue to take place to deter people from driving under the influence across the nation.

A garda spokesman told the Irish Independent: “An Garda Síochána appeals to the public to never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“Intoxicated driving, along with inappropriate and excessive speed, non-wearing of seat belts and distracted driving using mobile phones remain the four key offences.”

The legal limit is a blood alcohol level of 50mg for experienced drivers.

The limit is lower for learner drivers and professional drivers, at a blood alcohol level of 20mg per 100ml of blood.

A driver who is found to be over the limit – whether they are learner, novice or professional – is automatically disqualified from driving for three months and will get a fine of €200.

A garda spokesman added: “Every road traffic fatality is a tragedy.

“If you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs you not only risk losing your driving licence, but you run the risk of causing a collision, injuries and deaths which ruin the lives of survivors, families and friends.

“Never ever drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.“

Road safety experts with AA Ireland are warning motorists of the dangers posed by drink driving.

AA Ireland spokeswoman Anna Cullen said: “As the weather hopefully improves over the next few weeks, more and more people may be out and about.

“The effects of alcohol on driving can linger on long after a night out.

“So, if you have been drinking, it’s of vital importance that you don’t get behind the wheel of a car until it is safe to do so.”

The gardaí carry out roadside breath testing for alcohol levels and it is an offence to refuse to be tested.

Drinkaware CEO Sheena Horgan said it is critical that people understand how long it takes for their bodies to process alcohol, to prevent accidents on our roads, and to protect themselves and others.

Sheena added: “People want to do the right thing and are aware that drink driving is dangerous, but without the knowledge of what a standard drink is, people might not be aware of how long it might take for them to process the alcohol they have consumed.”

The RSA is looking at an "interlock" mechanism for high-risk drink-drive offenders.

It has a working group looking at it which means a person would need to breathe into an apparatus to start a car.

An RSA spokesman told the Irish Independent: “As part of the New Road Safety Strategy, (this is) one of the key actions.

“It is to establish a working group to consider and make recommendations for the implementation of an alcohol interlock programme, supported by a drink-drive rehabilitation course in Ireland, for high-risk drink drive offenders.

“This is down for quarter 4 2022.”

Up to today, 86 people had tragically died on our roads to date in 2022.

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