The history of drink driving when did it become illegal?

We all know that it’s illegal to get behind the wheel while intoxicated here in the UK. Alcohol affects us all in different ways, meaning that even just one drink could be enough to push someone over the legal drink-drive limit.
 
Maybe you’ve been caught drink driving before. If so, you might have received a fine, points on your licence, a driving ban or a criminal conviction. The most serious cases can even result in a prison sentence.
 
If you’ve been convicted of drink driving before, or of any other motoring offence, you could find it hard to get insured for a competitive price. But maybe not if you use the Insurance Factory for convicted driver insurance; we specialise in covering motorists with previous convictions, and treat each case individually to find you a policy that suits your needs and budget.
 
We understand that the past is the past, and will try our very best to get you back in the driving seat with as little hassle as possible.
 

The history of drink driving

Ever wondered when it became illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol? Here’s a rundown of landmark events in the history of drink driving.
 

1872: The Licensing Act

Before cars ruled the roads, they were full of horse and carriages. As Drink Driving explains, the Licensing Act introduced in 1872 made it an offence to be drunk while in charge of horses and carriages, as well as cattle and steam engines!

People who were caught would face a maximum fine of 40 shillings or at the court’s discretion, and/or imprisonment with or without hard labour for up to a month.

A horse drawn cart with two people inside


1925: Criminal Justice Act

The Criminal Justice Act made it an offence to be drunk when in control of any mechanically-propelled vehicle on a highway or any other public place. The penalty was a maximum of £50 and/or imprisonment for up to four months, as well as a disqualification from holding a licence for at least one year.
 

1930: Road Traffic Act

Five years after the introduction of the Criminal Justice Act, the Road Traffic Act made it illegal to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place while being ‘under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.’
 

1965: Drink-drive limit is announced

Fast forward to 1965 and the BBC announced that a blood alcohol limit was to be introduced for drivers. The news story explained: ‘Anyone found to be driving when over the set limit will be penalised in the hope it will deter drivers from drink driving and make roads safer’.
 
Previous campaigns highlighting the dangers of drink driving failed to put motorists off getting behind the wheel intoxicated, as accident numbers continued to rise – hence why the drink-drive limit was introduced.

A glass of alcohol next to a pair of car keys


1967: Drink-drink limit and roadside breathalyser introduced

It would be two years later that the official drink-drink limit would be enforced, explains the Gov.UK website, with the legal limit set at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
 
Barbara Castle, transport minister at that time, launched the breathalyser as a way of testing a person’s blood alcohol concentration at the roadside. Breathalysers used must be devices approved by the government.
 
The introduction of the breathalyser led to many protests, particularly by publicans who said it was an infringement on personal liberty and would lead to bankruptcy.
 
The Road Safety Act 1967 made it an offence to fail to provide an ‘evidential’ blood or urine specimen for laboratory testing without reasonable excuse.

Similarly, provisions set out in the act made it an offence to fail to provide a breath specimen – motorists would be subject to arrest without a warrant and could be fined a maximum of £50.
 

1968: Breathalyser cuts road traffic accidents

The Alcotest 80 was the first roadside breathalyser to be approved by the home office. The ‘80’ in its name referred to the limit it was designed to detect.
 
Backed by a government-led advertising campaign, the breathalyser helped to cut the number of alcohol-related road traffic accidents from 25% to 15% in the first year alone. More specifically, there were 1,152 fewer recorded deaths, 11,177 fewer serious injuries and a 28,130 reduction in cases of minor injuries caused by road traffic incidents.
 

1995: CADD is set up

There were a number of introductions and legislation amendments in the years following the launch of the breathalyser. These included the introduction of the high risk offender scheme in 1983 and drink driving rehabilitation courses in 1991.
 
In 1995, relatives of the victims of drink-driving formed the Campaign Against Drink Driving (CADD). The registered charity still exists today and is instrumental in highlighting drink driving issues to the public and government.

A pint of beer next to a breathalyser


The 2000s

One of the most significant changes in recent years is Scotland’s decision in 2014 to reduce the drink-limit to 50mg per 100ml of blood, from 80mg – the limit that still remains in England and Wales to this day.
 
Kenny McAskill MSP said: “This is about improving safety, we know that alcohol impairment does kick in mostly at 50mg. That’s the level where it’s quite clear that driving is impaired.”
 

Convicted driver insurance from the Insurance Factory

If you’ve been convicted of drink driving in the past, the Insurance Factory may be able to help set you up with a competitively-price convicted driver insurance policy. Packed with the same benefits as standard car insurance, it can help you get back behind the wheel.
 
We also consider other motoring offences – like reckless driving, driving in a dangerous manner/at a dangerous speed, or driving without insurance – as well as non-motoring convictions. A conviction for a motoring offence doesn’t have to spell the end of your driving life – you just need the right insurance in place.
 
Get a quote for convicted driver insurance from the specialists at Insurance Factory today and see how much you could save!