What are alcohol tags?

We all know the dangers of drinking and driving. But sadly, the problem persists, as motorists mistakenly think they’re safe to get behind the wheel after a glass or two - or gamble that they won’t get caught.
Since 2020/21, the courts have had a new weapon in the fight against drink-related crime: they can order offenders to be fitted with alcohol tags, also known as sobriety tags. So what exactly are these tags, how do they work, and could they really help drink-drivers sober up and stay safe?
In this article, we’ll explore the issue of drink-driving, including the tragic accident statistics. We’ll also take a look at what the consequences of a drink-driving conviction can be for motorists, such as fines and driving bans.
So buckle up and join us for a sober journey through the topic of alcohol-related crime, motoring convictions, and alcohol tags. And if you’d like a convicted driver insurance online quote, Insurance Factory can oblige.

Alcohol, crime, and driving

According to Rospa, around 200 people are killed in drink-drive accidents in the UK every year. That figure includes not just the drivers themselves, but also their passengers and other road users.
While the number of drink-driving accidents has, thankfully, dropped in recent decades, those 200 deaths are still 200 too many. Each person killed on the roads leaves behind grieving relatives and friends. Plus, of course, drink-driving accidents cause thousands of non-fatal injuries each year, many of them life-changing.
That’s why it becomes so difficult for motorists with drink-driving convictions to get insurance cover: providers calculate that there’s a higher chance that they’ll have to pay out for large claims. Instead, such motorists may need to get specialist cover: at Insurance Factory, we can offer you a quick and simple convicted driver insurance online quote.
But it’s not just on the roads where alcohol fuels crime: it’s a factor in 39% of all violent crimes, and is one of the main drivers of domestic violence and unprovoked attacks. Altogether, the social and economic cost of drink-related crime in the UK is estimated at £21.5 billion per year.
Unsurprisingly, the government is keen to find a way to reduce this huge toll on victims and the public purse. Which is where alcohol tags come in.
 A man holding a beer while driving

What are alcohol tags?

Alcohol tags were launched in a pilot scheme in Wales in October 2020, and later rolled out across England in April 2021.
Courts have been given powers to hand down “alcohol abstinence orders” as part of community sentences to those convicted of drink-related crimes, including motoring offences. An offender is then fitted with an alcohol tag on their ankle to monitor compliance. These can only be removed once the term of the sentence is over.
Such devices are similar to the other, more established forms of electronic tags, which use GPS data and timers to ensure that offenders stay in a certain area, or comply with a curfew.
In contrast, alcohol tags take a measurement of sweat every 30 minutes, throughout the day and night. If high levels of alcohol are found in the sweat, an alert is sent to the Probation Service.
Anyone found breaking the terms of their community sentence by drinking can face a new court sentence of a fine or even prison.
The tags know the difference between alcoholic drinks and other types of alcohol, like hand sanitiser. They can also detect if someone has tried to block contact between the tag and their skin.
So they sound like very clever devices indeed! But are they driving down alcohol-related crime statistics? Or will drink-driving figures remain stubbornly high, despite this new tech?
At the Insurance Factory, we know that many motorists convicted of alcohol offences are hugely remorseful. They welcome any tech that will help them resist the temptation to enjoy a few beers before driving!
So could these devices help offenders stay off the booze, drive sensibly, and avoid the need to contact us for a convicted driver insurance online quote? Let’s take a look at the official figures so far.

Are alcohol tags effective?

After the six-month trial scheme in Wales, the results were said to be highly promising. Some 100 people had been tagged, and offenders had stayed sober on more than 95% of days monitored.
Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse MP, said: “These tags have already brought enormous benefit to Wales since they were introduced in October, with one offender I met saying it not only changed his ways but also saved his life.

“This smart and powerful new tool is helping the fight against alcohol-fuelled violence which ruins too many lives and families and creates mayhem in our town centres.”

In their first year of usage in England, more than 3,100 offenders were tagged, with offenders staying sober 97% of the time.

One offender Mark (not his real name) from Hereford was sentenced to a community order and required to wear an alcohol tag for 90 days after being convicted of drink-driving. He was also banned from driving for 30 months and ordered to carry out 100 hours’ community payback.

He said: “I was pulled over on a Saturday morning and was devastated to blow over the limit. Like many others, during lockdown a drink at the weekend had turned into maybe a glass of wine during the week and it made me reflect.

“I’ve not found wearing the tag hard, but it has given me extra motivation to reduce my intake.”
For drivers like Mark, alcohol tags could give them the reminder they need to make lifestyle changes that will boost their safety and that of other road users. Getting a convicted driver insurance online quote is easy thanks to the Insurance Factory.

What’s next for alcohol tags?

Following the successful rollout of the scheme to offenders given community orders, it is now being further extended to people released on licence from prison sentences for alcohol-related crimes. Again, that will include some people jailed for drink-driving offences.

It’s calculated that by 2035, some 12,000 offenders will have been fitted with sobriety tags. That’s all part of the government’s £183 million investment in electronic monitoring, covering both alcohol and GPS tags.

It sounds like good news for road safety – but not everyone’s convinced. So what are the problems with alcohol tags?

A broken glass of whiskey next to a set of car keys

The controversy over alcohol tags

According to alcohol addiction campaigners, sobriety tags are simply a “short-term solution to a long-term problem”.
Nuno Albuquerque of the UK Addiction Treatment Group told the Independent newspaper: “What they're doing in effect is just slapping a sticking plaster over the top of a person's open wound. Tagging them simply stigmatises them for drinking alcohol and doesn't address the root cause of the problem.”
He added: “We'd welcome information as to how these people are supported in order to prevent them from drinking once the tag comes off. Collaborative support between probation teams and treatment providers needs to be in place so that when the tag comes off, the person won't want to drink, rather than being forced not to drink.”
However, the Ministry of Justice has stated that the tags will not be used on offenders who are alcohol-dependent or suffering certain medical conditions. People fitted with the sobriety tags will also be offered professional support, with offenders signposted to relevant rehab services.
Probation officer Laura Harrison said: “Sobriety tags have had an enormously positive effect on the people I’ve supervised in Wales, improving their mental health, keeping them off drink and out of trouble with the police.”
So hopefully, if you’re given an alcohol abstinence order and fitted with a tag, it will be the impetus you need to change your drinking habits and turn your life around.

At the Insurance Factory, we applaud people who can learn from their mistakes, and we can offer you a convicted driver insurance online quote after your driving ban expires.

What are the other penalties for drink-driving?

The main consequence of drink-driving is that you could kill yourself, your passengers, or other road users. Nobody wants to live with the awful guilt of having caused a fatal accident – but unfortunately, many drivers don’t think this through before getting behind the wheel after a few pints.
But even if you don’t cause an accident, you could face serious penalties if you’re found to be over the alcohol limit or unfit to drive.
Police can ask you to take a breath test if they have reason to believe you’re driving under the influence of alcohol – for example, if they notice you’re driving in a haphazard manner, or if someone has reported that you’ve got behind the wheel after drinking. Random stops are more likely at Christmas and New Year.
If you’re found to be over the limit, you’ll be prosecuted. If you’re convicted, it’s up to the court to decide your penalty, but you can expect the following:
  • If you’re convicted of driving or attempting to drive while over the limit or unfit through alcohol, you’re likely to lose your driving licence for at least one year (unless there are exceptional circumstances), face an unlimited fine, and could even be sent to jail for up to six months.
  • If you are convicted of refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for alcohol analysis, you face the same penalty as for drink-driving, above. You’ll also be classified as a high-risk offender – see below.
  • If you’re convicted of being in charge of a vehicle while over the alcohol limit, the penalty is likely to be a possible driving ban, a fine of up to £2,500, and up to three months in jail.
  • If you’re convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, the penalties are jail for up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, a driving ban of at least two years, plus the requirement to take an extended test before you can get your licence back.
So if any of the above applies to you, contact us at the Insurance Factory for a convicted driver insurance online quote. We’ll search our panel of advisers for you to help you find specialist cover that meets your needs and budget.
 The hammer of a judge with a set of scales

Who are high-risk offenders?

If you’re classified as a high-risk offender, you’ll need to pass a medical examination before you’re allowed to get your licence back after disqualification.
This applies if: you are convicted of drink-driving more than once in 10 years; had an alcohol reading of at least 200mg per 100ml of blood; or refused to give the police a sample of blood, breath or urine for testing.
The medical examination will be with a DVLA doctor, and you’ll need to pay for it yourself. It will include a questionnaire about your alcohol use, a physical examination, and a blood test.
There’s no guarantee that you’ll be allowed to regain your licence. So it really is essential that you sort out your drinking behaviour – see the end of this article for how to get support.

What are the other consequences of drink-driving?

A conviction for drink-driving has consequences in other areas of your life.
As all of the offences listed above carry possible prison sentences, they will go on your criminal record – even if you are not actually sent to jail. That can cause you difficulties when applying for jobs, mortgages and so on. They’ll be considered spent after five years in most cases.
However, they all carry codes which will go on your driving licence for a long time (usually 11 years). You’ll have to declare the code to your insurance provider, making it hard for you to find cover.
If you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction, which could have implications for your job.
Many people find having a conviction for drink-driving very shameful. If friends or family find out, or if it’s covered in the local paper, it can be very humiliating.
And if you hope to take your mind off your woes with a holiday, think again! Having a criminal record can make it harder to travel to certain countries, including the USA.
Plus, your insurance premiums are likely to rise significantly: contact the Insurance Factory for a  convicted driver insurance online quote. We’ll search our panel of providers to find you policies that will help you get back legally on the road after a conviction.

What other tech can help me avoid drink-driving?

It really is important for countless reasons to stay off the booze before driving. But as many people are aware, it’s all too easy to slip over the limit – despite their best intentions.
Being fitted with an alcohol tag is something we’d all prefer to avoid, no matter how useful it might turn out to be. So what other tech is there on the market that could help you stay sober?
The EU has recently passed a law requiring all new vehicles to be fitted with an in-car breathalyser, or “alcolock”, which requires the driver to pass a breath test before the engine will start.
Britain is likely to mirror this legislation, but the details of how these devices will be implemented are not yet known.
In the meantime, you can already buy breathalysers to check you’re not over the limit before you get behind the wheel. Single-use breathalysers are cheap and readily available. If you drive in France, it’s mandatory to have one in your car.
So don’t risk it – buy one now, and stay sober and safe on the roads at all times. If you do make a mistake, contact the Insurance Factory once your driving ban is lifted for a convicted driver insurance online quote. We won’t judge you: we understand that people learn from their mistakes, and we’ll help you get back behind the wheel.
 A breathalyser next to a car key and a pint of beer

Top tips for avoiding a drink-driving conviction

Finally, we’d like to remind you of a few other pointers for staying sober and safe on the roads. We hope these help you avoid accidents, prosecution, and the need to wear an alcohol tag.
1. Remember you can still be over the limit the day after drinking. So avoid a heavy night if you know you’ll be using your vehicle in the morning. It takes an average of one hour for a unit of alcohol to pass through your system – but it can be a lot longer, and it’s easy to miscalculate.
2. Coffee won’t sober you up. It might make you feel less tired after drinking, but it won’t help your body metabolise the alcohol any faster. Food does help, but it’s unwise to rely on a big meal to soak up alcohol. The key factor is time.
3. Be aware that different regions and countries have different drink-drive limits. In England and Wales, the limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Cross the border into Scotland, and you could suddenly find yourself over the limit: it’s just 50mg there, which is in line with many European countries. In some countries, the limit’s zero – so check before you head off on a road trip.
4. Remember that different people have different tolerances for alcohol. Your weight, height and sex are all important factors: a small woman will generally be less able to handle drink than a large man. Never assume that just because your friend is confident that they can drive legally after a pint, you can too.
5. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you don’t feel drunk, you’re safe to drive. While you might feel fine for many everyday activities, your reactions are likely to be slower, while your ability to judge distance and speed will be impaired. Plus, you’re more likely to take foolish risks.
6. Designate a driver for any pub trip with mates. Take it in turns from one trip to the next, and make sure the alcohol drinkers cover the cost of the driver’s soft drinks.
7. Book taxis to and from any venue where you’ll be drinking. Yes, it’s more expensive than driving – but far, far cheaper than being caught drink-driving, which could leave you facing an unlimited fine plus higher premiums. If you’re caught out, Insurance Factory will provide you with a convicted driver insurance online quote.
8. Consider socialising without alcohol – yes, it’s possible! Meet your friends in a restaurant, the cinema, or at a sporting event, and stick to soft drinks. You might be pleasantly surprised at the variety of tasty mocktails and alcohol-free beers that are on the market these days.
9. If you’re drinking at home, keep a close eye on how many units of alcohol you’re consuming. It’s very easy to underestimate: a glass of wine can mean very different things, depending on who’s pouring! You can easily down a double or even triple gin in your tonic, thinking it’s just a single.
Finally, if you think you might have an alcohol problem, don’t ignore it – seek professional help. Your GP can support you, or there’s lots of advice on the Drinkaware website.

Get a quote from Insurance Factory today

At the Insurance Factory, we want everyone to stay safe on the roads. We know that even otherwise responsible, safety-conscious drivers can make one mistake and end up with a serious motoring conviction. If you’re a convicted driver you’ve probably got a lot of questions about when you can get back on the road.
We’ve got more than 20 years’ experience in helping motorists get back in the driving seat after a conviction. If you turn to us to arrange insurance, we won’t judge you – we understand that your past is in your past.
Getting a convicted driver insurance online quote from Insurance Factory couldn’t be simpler – just give us a few details now, and let us do the rest. We hope that in no time at all, you’ll be safely back behind the wheel.