Drink driving in Ireland

Drinkaware strongly supports official guidance from the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána that any amount of alcohol will impair your driving and increases the risk of a collision. This is not an opinion, it is a scientific fact. And still, a minority of people in Ireland continue to drink and drive. This makes our roads less safe for all road users. Get the facts about drink driving, the law and penalties.

When can I drive the morning after drinking?

The time of your last drink at night will affect when it is safe for you to drive the following day. This means that there could still be alcohol in your system the morning after drinking. Almost half of all arrests for driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) take place between midnight and 6am. 1 in 10 DUI arrests are made between 8am and 2pm, with a peak on Sundays.

    • It takes at least one hour to process one standard drink. This is a guide for information purposes only. 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.
    • Common examples of one standard drink include a half pint of beer / glass of wine (100ml) / pub measure of spirits (35.5ml).
    • There is nothing you can do to remove alcohol from your body any quicker, only time. Common myths are that drinking coffee, having a shower, eating a large breakfast or going for a run will sober you up. However, these are simply not true.
    • After you stop drinking, the alcohol levels in your system can continue to rise for up to 3 hours. If you feel unsure that you are able to drive safely, wait or use alternative transport options.

Try out our Drinks Calculator to see how many hours it could take for alcohol to leave your system (results show an estimate for education purposes only)


The Road Traffic (Amendement) Act 2018 came into effect on 26 October 2018. The legislation did not change the legal limits for drink driving. It means that drink drivers will now lose their licence for three months at lower drink driving levels.

Ordinary fully licenced drivers detected by An Garda Síochána with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of between 50mg and 80mg, will receive an automatic disqualification from driving of three months and a €200 fine. The penalties for learner, novice and professional drivers remain the same.

Drinkaware was proud to support the collective campaign to introduce these stronger penalties for drink driving in Ireland.


Driver Category Blood Alcohol Concentration Current Penalty
Learner, Novice, Professional 20+ to 80mg €200 fine
3 month driving ban
Ordinary driver 50+ to 80mg €200 fine
3 month driving ban
Ordinary driver 80+ to 100mg €400 fine
6 month driving ban


The legal limits for professional, learner and novice drivers are:

  • 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine or
  • 9 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

The legal limits for fully licenced drivers in Category B are:

  • 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine or
  • 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.


Drink driving arrests in Ireland have been steadily increasing for the past three years (since 2015). In 2017, 8920 drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), compared to 8067 arrests in 2016 (representing an 11% increase). Each of these statistics is more than just a number, each represents a life needlessly lost or a life changed forever.

A landmark report published by the Road Safety Authority in 2016, found that alcohol was a contributory factor in 38% of all fatal collisions. Of the 947 people killed in the 867 collisions analysed, alcohol was a contributory factor in:

    • 38% of all driver deaths
    • 30% of all motorcyclist deaths
    • 47% of all pedestrian deaths
    • 42% of all passenger deaths
    • 86% of drivers and 51% of passengers not wearing seatbelt who had consumed alcohol were killed.

Driver behaviours are changing

Drinkaware’s 2019 Barometer found that driver behaviours are evolving since new drink driving laws were introduced:

    • 42% of motorists have cut down on their drinking if they know they’ll be driving the next morning
    • 18% switched to non-alcoholic beer so they could drive home or drive the next morning
    • 48% used alternative transport instead of driving on a night out
    • 64% of adults feel there should be an official recommended breathalyser for personal use

Drinkaware’s 2017 Barometer research shows a high level of awareness of the dangers of drink driving among adults but still, many drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol despite knowing the risks. The survey found that:

    • 88% of adults agree that any amount of alcohol impairs driving ability
    • 1 in 10 had driven after consuming alcohol in the previous 12 months
    • 70% of adults who admitted to drink-driving agree that any amount of alcohol impairs the ability to drive.

Attitudes towards drink driving

A Road Safety Authority survey shows that attitudes towards drink driving in Ireland have hardened in recent years:

    • The number of people who say that there is NO acceptable amount of alcohol that a driver can consume and be safe to drive has increased from 61% (2015) to 73% (2017).
    • The number who say two or more drinks are acceptable has reduced from 11% (2015) to 7% (2017).

Help to keep our roads safe. Never ever drink and drive.