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DRIVING

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?
A policeman gives a contravenor a breathalyser test during a roadside check focused on speed near Nantes on June 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Red travel alert on France’s roads as summer holidays draw to a close

Another busy weekend on France’s roads is in store, as the summer holidays begin to draw to a close.

Red travel alert on France’s roads as summer holidays draw to a close

The country’s roads watchdog Bison Futé predicts very difficult travel conditions on major routes across the whole of the country, as holidaymakers head home on the penultimate weekend of les grandes vacances.

On Friday, the traffic monitor advises forecasts no particular problems for anyone travelling to holiday destinations, but advises road users heading home from popular resorts to:

  • Avoid the A13 between Rouen and Paris, from 5pm to 7pm;
  • Avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 12pm to 2pm;
  • Avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence, from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans, from 11am to 3pm;
  • Avoid the A61 between Narbonne and Toulouse, from 4pm to 7pm;
  • Avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in direction of France, from 1pm to 9pm.

Image: Bison Futé

Saturday travel, however, looks set to be more complicated, with Bison Fute predicting ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ conditions in both directions.

For outward journeys, it recommends that motorists should:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 10am;
  • avoid the A13, between Paris and Rouen from 11am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A11, between Paris and Le Mans from 12pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Orleans and Tours from 10am to 5pm, and between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 11am to 4pm;
  • avoid the A6 between Beaune and Lyon from 10am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 8am to 6pm;
  • avoid the A20 between Limoges and Brive-la-Gaillarde from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Orléans and Clermont-Ferrand from 10am to 4pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Toulouse and Narbonne from 10am to 3pm.

For return journeys on Saturday, road users are advised to:

  • return to or cross the Île-de-France before 2pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Le Mans and Paris from 11am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 10am to 3pm;
  • avoid the A6 between Lyon and Beaune from 1pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Orange and Salon-de-Provence from 9am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence from 10am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Spain and Orange from 10am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Bourges from 3pm to 6pm, and between Bourges and Orléans from 9am to 12pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Narbonne and Toulouse from 10am to 3pm;
  • avoid the A75 between Montpellier and Clermont-Ferrand from 12h to 14h;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in direction of France, from 4pm to 9pm.

Image: Bison Futé

Traffic levels ease a little on Sunday for those heading towards popular French tourist resorts, but are still considered ‘very difficult’ for those heading back home

The following advice is in place for outward journeys in France on Sunday

  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 3pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Montpellier and Narbonne from 3pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 4pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Toulouse and Narbonne from 3pm to 5pm.

For return journeys, the advice is:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 12pm,
  • avoid the A11 between Le Mans and Paris from 3pm to 9pm,
  • avoid the A10 at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines tollgate from 4pm to 8pm, and between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 11am to 5pm,
  • avoid the A6 between Lyon and Beaune from 11am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Salon-de-Provence from 10am to 6pm,
  • avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence from 10am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Bourges from 10am to 12pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of France from 2pm to 7pm.

Image: Bison Futé
 
The government will be back in Paris next week for the first Ministers meeting on August 24th, while schools start the new academic year the following week on Thursday, September 1st. 
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