On September 10, 1897, a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith becomes the first person ever arrested for drunk driving after driving his cab into a building. On Saturday 11 September 1897, the London newspaper “The Morning Post” reported that at about 00:45 on Friday 10 September 1897, Smith’s vehicle ‘swerved from one side of the road to the other, and ran across the footway into 165 New Bond Street’.

Smith admitted that he’d had ‘two or three glasses of beer’ and apologised, stating that ‘it is the first time I have been charged with being drunk in charge of a cab’. In fact, it was the first time anyone had been charged with such an offence. Smith later pleaded guilty and was fined 25 shillings, which is equivalent to £140 in 2019.

In the U.S.A., the first laws against operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol went into effect in New York in 1910. Despite the invention of the breathalyser in 1953, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving increased and lawmakers and police officers began to get tougher on offenders.

The drink-driving limit for drivers varies from place to place. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, whereas in Scotland it is 50 mg as it is in most of Europe. Russia’s limit is 18 mg while the U.S. and Canada sit at 80 mg with the Cayman Islands setting the limit at 100 mg.

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