Having a glass or pint of your favourite tipple may make you less steady on your feet than it did a decade ago.
For the alcohol content of beer, wine and cocktails has surged in recent years.
It prompted a senior doctor this week to urge Brits not to get behind the wheel after just one alcoholic drink because they have become so strong.
Larger glass sizes, powerful New World wines and craft beers, are all to blame for booze becoming stronger, experts say.
But the demise of low-strength mild beer and the creeping size of a shot are also factors, they suggest.
The current drink-drive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Malta is the only other European country to have a limit this high, with Scotland and much of Europe setting a level of 50milligrams. Some nations set the bar even lower
The British Medical Association (BMA)’s president said the idea of ‘getting away’ with two pints ‘has always been dangerous’. However, he cautioned that a 125ml glass of 9 per cent wine — more common when current drink-driving laws were devised in the 1960s — is now ‘virtually unheard of’
Sir Ian Gilmore, head of the British Medical Association (BMA), warned that it’s now nearly impossible to work out how many units of alcohol a person has consumed.
He called for laws effectively banning motorists from consuming any alcohol before driving.
As a basic guide, men are advised not to drink more than three units, while women should stick to two at a maximum, before getting behind the wheel, according to the Department of Transport.
A glass of 125ml wine — which used to be the standard — has 1.6 units of wine.
But Sir Ian warned that these are now ‘virtually unheard of’.
What are the drink-driving rules in Britain?
The current level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
Malta is the only other European country to have a limit this high, with Scotland and much of Europe setting a level of 50milligrams.
Some nations set the bar even lower.
The RAC website warns there is ‘no hard and fast rule’ for how many units of alcohol a person can safely drink without exceeding the 80milligrams limit as it depends on the individual’s gender, age, weight, metabolism, stress levels and food intake.
However, it says this is likely to be no more than two to three units of alcohol for men and no more than one to two units for women.
This is equivalent to one pint of beer (2.3 units) or one small glass of wine (1.6 units).
Instead, a 250ml glass has become the standard measure offered in many pubs, bars and restaurants, Drinkaware argues. This contains a whopping 3.5 units of alcohol.
Studies have suggested that the introduction of the larger 250ml wine glass in the 90s encourages drinkers to consume more — effectively making a glass of wine stronger than it was a decade or so ago.
But wine itself has also become stronger. Studies indicate the average bottle of wine has become two per cent stronger due to the trend for bolder wines.
The popularity of stronger European lagers among Brits has also seen alcohol by volume (ABV) levels rise, Sir Ian said this week.
He told The Mirror: ‘Now it’s much more trendy to be drinking a Spanish lager or a Greek lager than one from the UK and there’s been a shift away from traditional British bitter.
‘People are just not aware. To talk about how many units you can have is not helpful.’
Meanwhile, the once popular low-strength mild ale has fallen out of fashion.
The light beer, which was around 3 per cent ABV, has been shunned in favour of craft options, which boast an ABV of around 6 per cent, according to Drinkaware.
But craft options have an ABV of up to 15 per cent.
The rise in microbreweries is another factor.
Latest figures from the Society of Independent Brewers Association show the total number of breweries in the UK has risen in 2023.
New opening figures highlight demand for craft beer and brewery taprooms or microbreweries, it suggested.
An increase in gin, vodka and whisky measures also means Brits are now consuming more alcohol per drink than they previously did.
Traditionally, pubs and bars have served spirits in 25ml measure glasses, equivalent to one unit of alcohol.
Many, however, have now switched to 35ml or 50ml measures, Drinkaware warns.
This means often people may be consuming far more alcohol than they realise.
The current drink-drive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
Malta is the only other European country to have a limit this high, with Scotland and much of Europe setting a level of 50mg. Some nations set the bar even lower.
The current drink-drive in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Malta is the only other European country to have a limit this high, with Scotland and much of Europe setting a level of 50 milligrams. Some nations set the bar even lower. The RAC website warns there is ‘no hard and fast rule’ for how many units of alcohol a person can safely drink without exceeding the 80milligrams limit as it depends on the individual’s gender, age, weight, metabolism, stress levels and food intake
A father-of-three has suffered life changing brain damage after being hit by a drink-driver outside a pub. Gary Burvill, 32, also sustained leg fractures and ruptured ligaments in the hit-and-run when a car mounted the pavement and crashed into him in Southend, Essex, in February 2022
The RAC website warns there is ‘no hard and fast rule’ for how many units of alcohol a person can safely drink without exceeding the 80mg limit as it depends on the individual’s gender, age, weight, metabolism, stress levels and food intake.
A safer interpretation is equivalent to one pint of beer (2.3 units) or one small glass of wine (1.6 units).
Alcohol charities and the BMA want the level slashed by more than a third over fears that it is fuelling hundreds of avoidable road deaths each year.
It would mean many motorists are effectively banned from consuming any alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
Representatives at the BMA’s annual conference back in July backed a motion committing the union to campaign to ‘reduce the legal blood alcohol limit to the average of European Nations’.
Father-of-three, 32, suffers life-changing injuries after being hit by drink-driver outside pub
A father-of-three has suffered life changing brain damage after being hit by a drink-driver outside a pub.
Gary Burvill, 32, also sustained leg fractures and ruptured ligaments in the hit-and-run when a car mounted the pavement and crashed into him in Southend, Essex, in February 2022.
The former sous chef was in hospital for more than a year and underwent two craniectomies and a cranioplasty.
He was in a minimally conscious state for eight months after the crash and has since required extensive care and rehabilitation support to learn how to walk again.
The driver was found guilty of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and jailed for four years in September. He as also banned from driving for five years.
Speaking for first time of their ordeal, Gary’s mum Jackie told how the crash had ‘ruined his life’ and how he know struggles to do basic tasks.
Jackie, 61, said: ‘Before the crash, Gary was doing well in his job and loved nothing more than spending time with his children.
‘What happened to him that night changed everything.
‘It’s been heart-breaking to see him struggle to do the things we all take for granted and be reliant on others for so many aspects of his life.
‘We just hope that by sharing our story, we can make others aware of what can happen when you break the law.
‘The driver that night was driving dangerously, and because of him Gary’s life was ruined in a split second.’
At the time, Sir Ian said: ‘The level to which we reduce it is I think up for debate.
‘My preference is to go down to 20milligrams. It allows for almost zero-tolerance but takes account of a pretty strong aftershave that morning.’
Dr Katherine Severi, chief executive, Institute of Alcohol Studies, told MailOnline: ‘We know that many alcoholic products have increased in strength over the years.
‘But people’s understanding of the limit and the number of units in a drink is often quite low, with many thinking that it’s ok to have two drinks before driving. The safest approach is also the simplest: don’t drink alcohol before driving.’
She added: ‘We support the BMA’s sensible call for the UK — excluding Scotland — to reduce its drink driving limit to match most countries in Europe.
‘Drivers within the current legal limit are six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash, compared to those who haven’t consumed alcohol.
‘After years of progress on road safety it is concerning that drink driving deaths increased by 21 per cent between 2020 to 2022, so now is the time for action.
‘With more than three quarters of people supporting reducing the drink driving limit, the government cannot ignore the evidence and ignore what every other country is doing.
‘Reducing the limit will not only save lives, but also save people from the unimaginable grief of losing a friend or family member in such an unnecessary way.’
Meanwhile, Lucy Straker, campaign manager at road safety charity, Brake, said: ‘We know that when alcohol is involved, people are more likely to speed. On average, 188 people are killed and more than 1250 people seriously injured every year in drink-drive related crashes in England and Wales.
‘England and Wales have the highest drink-drive limits in Europe. These are unacceptable facts.
‘The current drink-driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive, up to that limit. It isn’t. Clarity in law is needed to drive a change in behaviour.’
Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, also told MailOnline: ‘With millions of us beginning to enjoy workplace and festive gatherings, this is a timely reminder that it’s always best to be safe and not drink when driving.
‘We’re encouraging employers to take simple steps to make sure that their workplace parties are inclusive, such as offering a range of no and low-alcohol options to support their staff have a safe and enjoyable time together.
‘We support the BMA’s recommendations, which are a reminder that the drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is significantly higher than many other countries.’
Leading experts have also rowed about the harms of moderate drinking for decades.
Scientists across the board, however, agree that excessive alcohol consumption can permanently damage the liver and cause an array of cancers and drive up blood pressure.
The WHO estimate it kills three million people around the world each year.
The NHS recommends people drink no more than 14 ‘units’ of alcohol — around six glasses of wine, or pints of beer — per week.
This itself has been watered down over the past few decades in light of studies illustrating the health dangers of alcohol.
Meanwhile, the US says women should drink no more than seven standard drinks a week and men can have 14.
These measures include a medium-sized glass of wine and 340ml of beer, close to a regular bottle size.
One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.
8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.
Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.