Drink driving in Ireland

Drinkaware strongly supports official guidance from the RSA 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.

How long after drinking can I drive?

When is it safe to drive the morning after drinking alcohol

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 (Amendment) Act 2018 was introduced on 26 October 2018. The legislation did not change the legal limits for driving after having consumed alcohol.

It means that drink drivers will now lose their licence for three months at lower drink driving levels.

What is the drink driving limit in Ireland?

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 driving under the influence 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 ban on driving
Ordinary driver 80+ to 100mg €400 fine
6 month ban on driving

Gardaí can carry out roadside breath testing to check drivers’ alcohol levels. The Road Traffic Act (2006) allows Gardaí to carry out breathalyser tests at mandatory alcohol checkpoints (random breath testing).

The penalties for driving with alcohol in your system vary depending on the type of driver and the concentration of alcohol.

If you hold a valid driving licence and your blood alcohol level is found to be below a certain threshold, you may be issued a fixed penalty notice. This will contain details of the fine you are required to pay.

Note that the fixed penalty notice applies to drivers with a valid licence, those with no drink driving offences in the previous three years, and additionally, the fine must be paid within 28 days.


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

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

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

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


Last Year, 2022, 156 persons died on Irish roads, the largest death toll on Irish roads since 2016. 18 persons died on Irish roads during January 2023.  This is the largest death toll on Irish Roads during the month of January since 2013.

These are much more than figures. Each number  represents a life needlessly lost or a life changed forever.

  • Over 50,500 Road Traffic Collisions were recorded by An Garda Síochána during 2022 including:
  • 150 Fatal Road Traffic Collisions
  • 1,238 Serious Injury Road Traffic Collisions
  • 4,526 Minor Injury Road Traffic Collisions
  • 44,853 Material Damage Road Traffic Collisions

During 2022 An Garda Síochána detected 8,038 driving while intoxicated offences (5,331 Alcohol/ 2,707 Drugs).

In January 2023 An Garda Síochána detected 660 drivers for Driving under the Influence Offences (415 Alcohol/ 245 Drugs).

Driver behaviours are changing

Drinkaware’s 2019 Barometer found that driver behaviours are evolving since the new 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 driving having consumed alcohol 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

Research from the driver attitudes and behaviour survey carried out by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in 2020 revealed that 25% of motorists agreed ‘there were times when they have been over the limit the morning after a night out’.

Figures released by the RSA revealed an increase of 13% in road fatalities in 2022 , due to speeding, collisions, drink/drug driving, and careless & reckless driving.

Sunday was noted as the most dangerous day with almost half of all fatalities occurring between 12pm –8pm and 17% taking place between 8am and 12pm.

Attitudes towards drink driving

A Road Safety Authority survey shows that attitudes towards driving under the influence 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).

J1 Campaign

If you are planning on going on a J1 remember that a drink or drug driving conviction may stop you from going to the US on your J1.

The  J1 social media campaign is a joint campaign between RSA, USIT and An Garda Síochána to highlight the consequences of getting a drink or drug driving conviction. Find out more about the J1 campaign.

Wrong side of the road

Drivers who are impaired by alcohol have a much higher risk of being involved in a crash. The Wrong Side of the Road website exists as part of a commitment to helping people understand the dangers of driving drunk worldwide.

Wrong Side of the Road is an educational project developed in collaboration between Diageo and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). All stories are real, visit today to learn more.

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


Can I drive 12 hours after drinking?

When you are safe to drive after drinking depends on how many standard drinks you have consumed. It takes at least one hour per standard drink for alcohol to leave your system, and the time starts from when you have finished drinking.

For example, if you have consumed 4 standard drinks, it is recommended to wait at least 4 hours before driving. However, it is important to note that this is just a general guideline, and individual factors (including body weight, metabolism, and amount of alcohol consumed) can affect the length of time it takes for alcohol to be eliminated from the body.

There is nothing you can do to remove alcohol from your system any quicker, you must be give your body the time it needs to process the alcohol.

Remember that any amount of alcohol can impair your driving.

Can you drink drive in an emergency?

It is never, ever safe to drink and drive, in the instance of an emergency you should call 999. It is illegal to drive over the legal drink driving limits, regardless of the circumstances.

In the event of an emergency, it is recommended to use alternative means of transportation, or seek assistance from an experienced driver.

Does a drink driving conviction stop you going to America?

A conviction for driving while over the legal limit can potentially affect your ability to enter the United States, as it is considered a criminal offence. It is possible that a person with drink driving convictions may be denied entry to the United States, particularly if the road traffic offence was recent, serious, or resulted in injury or death.

However, each case is evaluated individually and factors such as the severity of the offence, the length of time since the conviction, and the person’s overall criminal record may be taken into consideration.

How many standard drinks is the drink driving limit? 

It’s not possible to say exactly how many standard drinks meet the drink driving limits. This is because the limit is determined based on blood alcohol content.

The amount of alcohol that a person can consume and remain below the legal limit varies depending on a range of factors such as their weight, gender, metabolism, and the strength and amount of alcohol consumed.

It is always safest not to drink and drive, and to use alternative means of transportation or to seek the assistance of a designated driver or taxi service.

Can you drink and drive with non alcoholic beer?

Non alcoholic beers contain trace amounts of alcohol which is typically less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).

While you can drink non-alcoholic beer and drive safely, it is still important to ensure your total consumption does not exceed safe limits, and may even result in a positive breath or blood alcohol concentration test.

Be mindful that there are alcohol-free beers and low-alcohol beers, which are different types of drinks.

Are you covered by insurance if drink driving?

If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, it is a criminal offence, and driving while over the legal limit can void your insurance policy. Therefore, if you have an accident while driving under the influence, your insurance company may refuse to cover the damages and you could be held personally liable for any costs incurred.

You should carefully read the terms of your insurance policy for details of what you are covered for.

It is important to note that driving while under the influence of alcohol is not only illegal but also extremely dangerous, and can result in serious injuries or fatalities. It is never worth the risk to drink and drive, and it is always safer to use alternative means of transportation.

As well as this, if convicted, your future insurance premiums may be more expensive, and you are required to inform potential insurers of a conviction.