The law is clear in the UK: don’t drink and drive. However, while drink driving is clearly unacceptable, there is a difficulty for Campervan and motorhome owners. Part of the reason motorhomes are so popular is because of their flexibility. They’re both a vehicle and living accommodation all wrapped up in one tidy package. However, while at home you can pour yourself another glass knowing that you aren’t breaking the law, in a motorhome it’s far from clear.

Just as by arranging motorhome insurance demonstrates you’re a law-abiding citizen, how can you stay on the right side of the law when it comes to drinking alcohol in your motorhome?

Laws on alcohol and driving

Drink driving laws in the UK are strictly enforced and carry severe penalties upon conviction. Figures from the Department for Transport show that in 2018 alone around 240 people were killed and 8,700 people were injured in crashes on British roads where at least one of the drivers was over the drink drive limit.

The two main offences are:

  • To drive or attempt to drive with excess alcohol (while exceeding the legal limit).
  • To be in charge of a motor vehicle with excess alcohol (while exceeding the legal limit).

Drinking and driving is clearly going to fall foul of the first offence. However, it’s the second offence that can cause particular problems for motorhome owners. After all, being drunk ‘in charge’ of a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place is a serious offence and carries similar penalties to drink driving.

According to the government website, being ‘in charge’ while unfit through drink could lead to three months’ imprisonment, up to £2500 fine or a possible driving ban. While ‘driving or attempting to drive’ while unfit through drink could lead to six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or a driving ban for at least one year.

If you’re unclear about the rules concerning drinking and sleeping in your motorhome, make sure you contact your motorhome insurance provider for further information.

Roads and public places

What about when you’ve parked up for the night and want to have a glass of wine while you watch the sun go down? What are the issues then?

If you’re staying at a private campsite there should be no legal problem with having a drink or two with dinner and then settling down for a restful night’s sleep. However, if you’re parked in a layby, next to a highway or even a pub car park then things get far greyer. In these situations, it might be advisable to stay within the legal limit or avoid the booze altogether. Check out our compiled list of where you can legally park up within the UK for some tips.

In charge of a motor vehicle

There is unfortunately no hard and fast definition of the term ‘in charge’. So, each case will depend on the exact circumstances you find yourself in. While you have a legal defence if you show there was no likelihood of you driving when drunk this is for you to prove – and to do so might require a stressful appearance in court.

Clearly if you’re sat in the driver’s seat with the keys in your hand, you’re at greater risk than if you’re in your pyjamas, with your curtains drawn and your bed made up. However, you’re still not entirely safe from prosecution. Remember that not only do you have to show that you don’t intend to drive but also that there’s no likelihood of you driving until you’re sober enough to do so.

How much can you drink?

There’s simply no fool-proof way of drinking alcohol and staying under the drink-drive limit. How much you can drink before exceeding the driving limit will vary from person to person. It depends on:

  • Your weight, age, sex, and metabolism
  • The type and amount of alcohol
  • What you’ve eaten
  • Stress levels

Be aware if you’ve had a lot to drink, you may still be over the legal limit the following morning. Use this calculator, courtesy of the Morning After drink-drive campaign, to find out roughly how long it can take to sober up from a night of drinking. You’ll be unpleasantly surprised!

Be prepared

If you’re going to drink in your motorhome then follow these steps to protect yourself. Before even your first sip of alcohol, you must:

  • Ensure your motorhome is already parked up for the night. Do not take the risk of having to move it later to the right place, even if it’s just a short distance or manoeuvre. A large motorhome is tricky to handle at the best of times.
  • Make sure your motorhome isn’t causing an obstruction. You don’t want to have to move it later.
  • Have some evidence that you’re planning to stay for a while, so you could prove your intention to sleep overnight in the motorhome rather than driving elsewhere. For example, put your silver-screens in the windscreen, pop on a steering lock and put jacks or steadies down.

After you’ve had a drink of alcohol, you must:

  • Pop the keys in a safe if you have one.
  • Never start up the engine in your motorhome, even to charge batteries.
  • Never place the key in or anywhere near the ignition.
  • Never sit behind the steering wheel or in the driver’s seat if it’s facing forwards.

Now all of this wont protect you from the law because theres always the “intent” which is why its of paramount importance to park somewhere that you wont have to move your vehicle.

For more insights and adventures related to van life, check out my other articles on A Van Life Thing. From reviews of van life events to personal experiences like The Hangry Van Man’s Adventure, there’s a wealth of knowledge and stories to explore.