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DRINKING DRIVING LIMITS IN EUROPE

Drinking and driving is never a good idea, but it becomes especially bad when you go abroad. Not only are you unfamiliar with the roads and driving customs, but driving on the other side of the road (if you are from the UK) and the different speed limits are experiences that need complete concentration. Those factors all add up. But there's one more to take into consideration - the legal blood alcohol limit for driving. Most European countries have now very low limits, or in some instances absolutely zero tolerance.

Drink driving is measured in blood alcohol, in a certain number of milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. Initially it is measured with a breathalyzer test, then a sample of urine, however it can also be checked in the saliva. The general standard in Europe is 0.5 mg per ml, but there are wide variances from country to country.
The Blood Alcohol Levels

DRINKING DRIVING AND LEGAL ALCOHOL LIMIT (g/l)
Standard
New driver
Professional
drivers
Austria
0,5
0,1
0,1
Belgium
0,5
0,5
0,5
Bulgaria
0,5
0,5
0,5
Cyprus
0,5
0,5
0,5
Czech Republic
0,0
0,0
0,0
Denmark
0,5
0,5
0,5
Estonia
0,2
0,2
0,2
Finland
0,5
0,5
0,5
France
0,5
0,5
0,5*
Germany
0,5
0,0
0,0
Greece
0,5
0,2
0,2
Hungary
0,0
0,0
0,0
Ireland
0,8
0,8
0,8
Island
0,5
0,5
0,5
Italy
0,5
0,0
0,0
Latvia
0,5
0,2
0,5
Lithuania
0,4
0,2
0,2
Luxemburg
0,5
0,2
0,2
Malta
0,8
0,8
0,8
Norway
0,2
0,2
0,2
Poland
0,2
0,2
0,2
Portugal
0,5
0,5
0,5
Rumania
0,0
0,0
0,0
Slovakia
0,0
0,0
0,0
Slovenia
0,5
0,0
0,0
Spain
0,5
0,3
0,3
Sweden
0,2
0,2
0,2
Switzerland
0,5
0,5
0,0
The Netherlands
0,5
0,5
0,2
United Kingdom
0,8
0,8
0,8
safetravel

What it Means
0.5mg is equivalent to one small beer, so nowhere in Europe is there much tolerance for drinking. Be very aware that there are variances within this framework. Turkey's 0.5 mg limit, only applies to passengerless compact vehicles; otherwise it's 0.0mg. In Germany the 0.5 mg limit applies unless you're picked up for another traffic offence, in which case it drops to 0.3mg; if you're over that, it'll be a criminal offence. If you're in a fatal accident in Germany and over the limit, you could serve five years.

Related Reading...
If you're a new driver (i.e. one who passed the test within the last two years) a number of countries have lower alcohol limits, like 0.1mg in Spain. In the same way, some countries also give higher penalties for those found with a much higher concentration of alcohol in the blood.
In many parts of Europe, the police don't need 'probable cause' to stop your vehicle and breathalyze you. They're permitted to make random stops and checks, so you could easily find yourself stopped unexpectedly.
Don't expect leniency if convicted of drink-driving abroad. The penalties differ greatly from country to country, but at the very least you're going to receive a large fine. You can, for example, receive a six month sentence in the UK and Ireland, and anywhere from one day to three years in Luxembourg. Drink-driving convictions in France can bring jail terms of two months to two years and in Finland up to three months. In all cases your licence will be suspended or you'll be banned from driving in the country.

How This Affects You
If you're banned from driving in one country, that doesn't stop you driving elsewhere in Europe. Attempting to return to that country driving a vehicle, though, will lead to your arrest. However, drink driving convictions abroad may not affect your licence, if there isn’t a treaty between countries.

But that knowledge doesn't change the fact that you simply shouldn't drink and drive. There's no way to do it with complete safety. You risk a conviction, fine and a great deal more. Enjoy your nights out on your holiday anywhere in Europe, by all means. But walk or take a taxi; the other way simply isn't worth it. Also, be aware that the legal limit throughout Europe will soon probably be 0.2mg.