22 Sep Drinking and Driving Crackdown in Europe
One of the bigger stories in European news is the upcoming referendum vote for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. For advocates against drinking and driving, there is an important issue tied to the vote: changing the legal limit in a new, independent Scotland. Politicians and activists are already talking about the possibility of adopting zero tolerance laws for drunk driving in advance of a “yes” vote. If Scotland were to get tough on drinking and driving, it would be just one in a line of European countries taking the hard line in the hopes of saving lives.
Legal Limits in Europe
As in the U.S., the legal limit for blood-alcohol content (BAC) for drivers in the United Kingdom is 0.08, one of the higher BACs allowed throughout Europe. Several years ago, statistics showed that at least 10,000 people were killed in the European Union (EU) each year because of drunk drivers. As a result, many countries lowered the allowable BAC for those driving a vehicle on European roads. The European parliament has even attempted to make proposals for a legal limit of zero that would be applicable to all novice drivers throughout the EU.
Individual European nations have taken the initiative in the last couple of years to establish their own tough limits on drinking and driving. Those coming down the hardest on drunk driving with a zero limit for all drivers include the Eastern European nations of Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. Croatia instituted a zero limit for drivers under the age of 24. Greece and Cyprus have a zero limit for new drivers and for motorcyclists. Ireland recently dropped the limit to 0.02 for novice drivers and also began a series of random breath tests for BAC. In Norway and Sweden, the limit is 0.02 for all drivers and penalties are serious, including prison time. Most other European nations have a limit of 0.05 for all drivers.
Scotland, ahead of its referendum, has already flexed its independence muscles and has broken away from the UK’s BAC limit of 0.08. Later this year, Scotland will put into effect a 0.05 limit, and, if independence goes through, may reduce the limit to zero for new drivers as well as professional drivers. One out of every eight deaths in Scotland is blamed on drunk drivers and many people support the lowering of the legal limit.
U.S. Legal Limits
The U.S. may eventually follow suit with much of Europe in the hopes of saving lives on the road. Currently, states allow people to drive with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08, as in the United Kingdom. Many people support the lowering of the BAC to 0.05. The National Transportation Safety Board has made the recommendation official, citing the numerous annual fatalities as the No. 1 reason. The NTSB says that thousands of people are killed or harmed each year by drivers who are below 0.08 but still impaired.
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