Drinking and Driving Outside of the U.S.
The law in every state of the U.S. says that .08 is the minimum BAC for a drunk driving arrest. When that standard was lowered state-by-state from .15, some people were frustrated and didn’t understand the reason behind the change. However, did you know the United States has one of the highest allowable BAC’s around the world?
Some European countries like France, Germany and Italy have strict drinking and driving laws. All four have a legal BAC level of .05. Norway, Poland and Sweden have even lower limits of .02. The Czech Republic and Hungary have a zero tolerance law—no alcohol level in the blood stream allowed. None.
France upped the ante recently when they started requiring breathalyzers in every motor vehicle (except mopeds) starting July 1st. The breathalyzer won’t prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver is over the legal drinking limit, but it will let the driver know if they are too intoxicated to drive. It’s still up to the driver to make the responsible decision. All drivers, including foreigners on vacation, are responsible for the cost of the devices, which must be purchased from an approved vendor.
Most people in the U.S. are aware of some of the consequences for a DUI conviction: fines, jail time, loss of driving privileges, driving classes and ignition interlocks. So how does the U.S. compare to other countries around the world? In the U.K. and Ireland, you may be sentenced to 6 months in jail. The average penalty in Japan for a DUI includes fines upwards of $6,000. In Japan, law enforcement has the discretion to determine whether you appear to “present a risk of driving improperly because of alcohol,” without testing the actual BAC. As a result many just report Japan as a zero tolerance country. The most notable part of Japan’s law is that every passenger in the car is liable if the driver is drunk and they agreed to ride! The philosophy is that anyone in the car with a drunk driver is enabling the driver to operate a vehicle intoxicated.
Even stricter, in Russia, where the BAC limit is .02, if you are convicted of drinking and driving, even once, you lose your license for life.
In addition to jail times, fines and loss of driving privileges, the following are also enforced in other countries:
- In Australia, the names of the offenders are sent to local newspapers for publication.
- In Poland, those convicted are required to attend multiple political lectures.
- In Norway, DUI offenders are sentenced to three weeks in jail, with hard labor.
- In Saudi Arabia, DUI offenses are punishable by lashes in the public square.
- In South Africa, DUI offenders are fined $10,000 and/or a ten-year prison sentence.
- In El Salvador, a DUI conviction can mean a death sentence!
The bottom line is that drunk driving costs lots of money, lots of freedom, and most importantly, a lot of lives. Your best bet outside of the U.S., as well as here at home, is to always have a designated driver, call a cab, take a bus or the subway before getting behind the wheel.