Over the festive season our alcohol consumption can rise dramatically; with friends dropping in unexpectedly, celebratory meals out and the office party!  But few of us give much thought to what our alcohol levels might be like the following morning as we drive to work, get the kids to school or do the weekly food shop.

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, over 70,000 people are still caught drink driving annually. Over 30 years of campaigning and we still haven’t got the message; so what’s to blame?

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider (3.5% ABV), a single 25 ml shot (40% ABV) or a small glass of wine (125ml, 9% ABV).  A healthy liver takes around 1 hour to breakdown and remove 1 unit of alcohol.

However it starts to get confusing when you factor in age, gender, weight, how much you’ve had to eat and the fact that many alcoholic drinks are likely to be “super strength”.  Supermarket shelves are packed with craft ales, lagers and ciders at well over 5%ABV. Add to this the likelihood of anyone actually pouring themselves a small glass of wine, or a small brandy?

You only need to have a couple of glasses of fizz, or a couple of pints before dinner, followed by a couple of glasses of wine at the table and suddenly you’ve had 8+ units.  Spend an evening in the pub and it’s easy to notch up 12 or more units. And at a minimal removal rate of 1 unit per hour, its potentially mid-morning of the next day before you’re safe to drive.

So, with this many variables, how can we be sure if it’s safe to get behind the wheel the next morning?

Simon Rawlings, manager for the Morning After campaign, said: “It takes much longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body, which means there is often a danger of people unwittingly driving while still over the legal limit the morning after drinking.

 “The penalties for being caught drink driving the morning after are exactly the same as at any other time – it’s no excuse to say you thought you were fine to drive because of the length of time since your last drink.”

If you are found to be over the limit the next morning you could land yourself a driving ban, a £2,500 fine and even a prison term. A conviction for ‘Causing death by careless driving when under the influence’ can cost you a 14 year prison sentence. Add to that the risk of killing or seriously injuring yourself, a passenger or someone else, it becomes unthinkable.

So, what’s the answer?  Well the only real option is, if you plan on driving; don’t drink.

Book a taxi, arrange a lift, or use public transport.  But don’t Drink & Drive.