Drunk Driving Limits From Around The World
Whether you’re planning a family holiday abroad or organising a six-month road trip around the world, there are certain elements to tick off - booking accommodation, hiring a car, ordering currency, finding the passports! But if you’re going to be driving abroad, how often do you research the legal alcohol limits of the country you’re going to?
There’s no two ways about it - the safest way to drive is to not drink at all. But if you’ve had a late night watching the sun go down with a couple of glasses of wine, you may still find yourself over the legal alcohol limit the next morning without realising. Alcohol affects people differently, and the length of time it takes to get it out of your system depends on how much you’ve had to drink, as well as your sex, weight, age and various other factors, such as whether you’ve been taking any medication.
To help you navigate through the different laws around the world, we’ve put together a map which shows the world’s legal drink driving limits, country by country, so that you can plan confidently and safely for a trip to remember - and not one to forget!
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Getting caught over the legal limit abroad can be costly, with punishments ranging from hefty fines to losing your licence - and even a prison sentence. For example, in South Africa, you could face up to six years in jail if you’re found to be over the legal limit of 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), whilst in countries like Norway, you could be fined a month’s wages if you have more than 0.02% BAC. Many countries have either a total ban on alcohol or a zero tolerance approach, where it is illegal to have any alcohol detected in your blood – so it’s essential you know the law before you travel.
If your journey takes you across a border, then you should make sure you’re aware of that country’s laws, too. A perfectly legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in one country may be over the limit in a neighbouring one. A twelve-hour road trip from Tromso in Norway to Murmansk in Russia will take you through four countries with three different alcohol limits. In the UK, the legal driving limit is 0.08% BAC in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - but the limit is lower in Scotland at 0.05%.
Even though the legal limit in Northern Ireland stands at 0.08%, drivers crossing into the Republic of Ireland need to exercise caution – the legal limit here was recently lowered to 0.05%. Drivers caught over the limit face a €200 fine and an automatic three-month disqualification from driving.
Savvy drivers on the continent should be aware of the different rules and regulations for each country that they drive through. Much of western and central Europe has a legal limit of 0.05% - but this can be lower if you’re a commercial driver or under 21. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Greece all share a 0.05% limit. However, travel to Poland and the limit is much stricter; drivers here cannot have a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.02% - if you do, it’s punishable by up to two years in prison.
That strict limit of 0.02% BAC is also shared in Morocco – the lowest detectable level – and one quarter of the limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
If you’re travelling across North America, then most states of the US, including Florida, California and Illinois have a limit of 0.08%, but there are some important differences if you’re under 21 years old or a commercial driver. In some states, including Illinois, there’s a zero tolerance approach if you’re under 21 and in California, it’s just 0.01%.
A New Zealand road trip offers up stunning landscapes that can take you from Alpine lakes to sandy bays. The drink drive limit is 0.05% and drivers caught over that limit could face up to three months in prison and a fine of up to $4500.
Surprisingly, there are some countries which have no upper alcohol limit at all. In Barbados, it’s not illegal to drink and drive - but you can get caught for driving without due care and attention if under the influence. Some countries also have lower alcohol limits for younger or commercial drivers.
So, be aware of the law and especially drink driving limits of countries you are planning to visit.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels represent the percent of your blood that is concentrated with alcohol. For example, a BAC of 0.10% means that an individual's blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1000 parts blood.
All legal information relevant to drinking and driving limits and fines in featured countries has been correct at the time of writing on the 21st of May 2019.
Please ensure you check the county you are visiting law to understand your responsibilities and rights.
Raw data can be found here.