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How long after 12 pints can I drive?

Updated: Jan 16


Drink driving. Judge is sitting at his seat and listening others.


AS SENSATIONALIST HEADLINES go, this one's right up there.


First, full disclosure: the information presented here is based largely on research conducted by responsible organisations and government bodies.


For example, Drink Aware is a registered charity that works “to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland”.

They are the only organisation in this country that provides evidence-based research to “support positive behaviour change regarding alcohol”.


Their work is “widely utilised by community, health, youth, education and civil society organisations”. Their evidence-based research uses the most up-to-date information from trusted sources like the HSE and WHO.


In short, Drink Aware is a reputable source of information about alcohol use and misuse.


As is the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, the state laboratory tasked with testing specimens of blood and urine for alcohol.


Drink Aware’s website contains a helpful “drinks calculator”, a mechanism that helps you determine how much you can drink before driving later.


So, what do they say?



“the most prevalent hours for intoxicant drivers
is late evening or early morning.
Specimens of blood and urine are
more likely to be provided between 10pm and 4am”.


Alcohol Units


Firstly, the legal limit for alcohol in blood is 50mgs.


Many of us know that it takes our body one hour to process one unit of alcohol.

But what’s a unit of alcohol?


One pint of beer is approximately 2 units of alcohol.

So, if you have 3 beers (6 units of alcohol) and finish drinking at 12am, then according to Drink Aware, those six units of alcohol should have left your system by 6am.


This means that you should be under the legal limit of 50mgs by 6am.


A large glass of wine also contains 2 units of alcohol.


If you had 4 glasses of wine (8 units) and finished drinking by 11pm, you should expect to under the legal limit by 7am.

Drink Aware points out that if you have 6 standard drinks you should wait 6 hours before driving.


Waiting 6 hours means waiting 6 hours, not 4 hours or 5 hours.


But as I’ve said to people before, this is not a pure science: nothing ever is when you’re dealing with humans.


Your ability to process alcohol is dependent on a number of factors e.g. how much you’ve slept, whether you’ve eaten recently, your body weight etc.

These are all variable.


Yes, I know, you’re welcome.


So, what is a standard drink?


In general, it’s:

· A 100ml glass of wine, or

· A pub measure of spirits, or

· A half pint of lager or stout.


A bottle of red wine at 14.5% proof contains about 8.6 standard drinks.

A bottle of wine at 12.5% proof contains about 7.5 standard drinks.


A pint of beer or cider (4.5%) has about 2 standard drinks.


Drink Aware calculates that if you drink a bottle of red wine (12.5%) you should allow 8 hours after your last drink before you attempt to drive.


This is because a bottle of red wine contains about 8 standard drinks, each one taking an hour to process.


Calorie-Killer


So, what about the person who’s drank 12 pints of beer?


While most of us would be comatose after consuming this quantity of drink, judging by how often this question appears online, plainly there are people who can manage it.


Or are thinking of managing it.


I can only assume that many of these people are men about to go away on a stag weekend.


Using Drink Aware’s calculator 12 pints of beer contains 24 standard drinks.


At the rate of one-drink per hour, it would take the distressed body 24 hours to fend off this joint attack on its unfortunate liver and kidneys.


So, if you finish at 3am then you shouldn’t attempt to drive until 3am the next day.


Which leads to another problem.


The police.


They have an annoying habit of setting up checkpoints at night looking for people like you.

It’s a disorder that affects them all over the country.

Apparently incurable.


1944 calories: almost the entire number of calories
the WHO recommends a person should consume in a day,
is being swilled down the pub.






ACCORDING TO THE MEDICAL BUREAU of Road Safety’s Annual Report 2021 “the most prevalent hours for intoxicant drivers is late evening or early morning. Specimens of blood and urine are more likely to be provided between 10pm and 4am”.


5,862 people were arrested in 2021 for drink driving and provided a blood or urine specimen.

Almost half (44%) were arrested between 10pm and 4am.


You might want to re-think that decision to start driving at 3am.


If that wasn’t depressing enough there’s also the implications for your waistline.


Drink Aware’s calculator also very helpfully points out that 12 pints of beer contains 1944 calories.


Yes, that’s right, 1944 calories: almost the entire number of calories the WHO recommends a person should consume in a day, is being swilled down the pub.


As if being arrested for drink driving wasn’t bad enough, you now have to suffer the indignity of being bloated in the police station at the same time.



If ever you needed a sign…


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