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Country by Country: DUI Laws and Limits

Critics of the United States often tout our severe laws in comparison to other countries. However, these critics are many times unaware that the US DUI laws are actually extremely lax when looking at DUI laws around the world. Though penalties vary from state to state, in the US, non-commercial drivers are not considered legally intoxicated until their blood alcohol levels reach 0.08%. Though other countries, like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and most Central American countries also use 0.08% as their basis for intoxication, most countries are much less lenient.

Most European countries charge drivers with DUIs with a 0.05% blood alcohol level. However, there are several European countries that have a much lower limit. Norway, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia charge drivers with a 0.02% blood alcohol level, while Albania utilizes 0.01%. Even stricter, the Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine allow no alcohol whatsoever for those behind the wheel. Persons convicted of DUIs can face fines, loss of license, and even jail time.

The rest of the world varies significantly with both blood alcohol level and punishments. In China, a driver with a 0.02% blood alcohol faces a mandatory six month penal detention stay as well as revocation of a driver’s license of up to three months. In Europe, many drivers that are convicted of DUIs, at minimum, face a driving ban. Ireland, for example, bans drivers convicted of DUIs for up to two years and imposes a stiff fine.

One of the major differences between the United States and many other countries is the limit of blood alcohol allowed for new drivers. Most countries do not allow new drivers, that is, those with less than three years of driving experience, to have any alcohol in their system. This may be explained by the fact that most countries, the minimum driving age is 18, whereas in the US, though it varies by state, the driving age for the most part is 16. Exceptions to this rule are New Zealand, whose driving age is 15, and Niger, whose driving age is 23. Compare the age discrepancy in driving to the legal age for drinking alcohol, which is, in most countries, also 18. In the United States, drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal.

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