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Vanarama survey: How long you need to wait before driving after having a drink

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A survey of 1,000 UK adults on drink-drive limits has uncovered how many motorists could be putting themselves at risk after having a festive tipple (or a few) this Christmas…

The Vanarama survey revealed ten million motorists could unknowingly drive under the influence of alcohol this Christmas.

The survey presented the participants with five drink-driving scenarios, and revealed 28% of the motorists were unaware that drinking a glass of champagne with their Christmas roast would put them over the alcohol limit in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Police are cracking down on drink-drivers during the festive season.
Police are cracking down on drink-drivers during the festive season.

Against the UK driving population (36m), this means just over ten million drivers could be risking it this year.

22% were unaware that drinking two small glasses of wine will put you over the alcohol limit, and six million drivers could be risking the morning after a Christmas night out.

When asked if 12 hours was enough to stabilise your blood alcohol concentration after eight cans of cider, one in six (17%) wrongly said it was safe to.

Motorists could be at risk of unknowingly drink-driving this Christmas.
Motorists could be at risk of unknowingly drink-driving this Christmas.

Simply standing next to your car while over the limit can land you £2,500 in fines and three months’ imprisonment.

Driving or attempting to drive under the influence raises this to six months’ imprisonment, unlimited fines, and a driving ban of at least one year.

Causing death by careless driving while intoxicated could result in 14 years behind bars, unlimited fines, and a two-year minimum ban.

To help spread awareness of the alcohol limit, Vanarama has shared how long you should wait before driving after for drinking certain drinks:

Large glass of wine — wait five hours before getting behind the wheel


Long island iced tea or a pint of lager — three and a half hours

Glass of champagne or a single gin — two-hour wait is needed

Sex on the beach cocktail, double vodka or pint of cider — four hours

Pina colada — three hours

A police officer holds a roadside breathalyser.
A police officer holds a roadside breathalyser.

Vanarama has also shared tips to ensure you don't drink drive:

  • Don’t drive after any amount of alcohol and stick to alcohol-free alternatives, such as mocktails and Heineken 0.0 if feel you are missing out
  • Eating food before drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol and help manage your blood alcohol concentration better, you can also have a soft drink or glass of water every other drink to decrease alcohol consumption
  • Give plenty of time to process the alcohol the following day before driving as after lots of alcohol seven or eight hours of sleep may not bring you below the drink-drive limit
  • Buy your own breathalyser for total peace of mind

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