Mobility and transport

The legal limit

The opinions expressed in the studies are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.


The legal limit

The legal limit is not the same in all EU-member states. In the Table 1 the legal limits of the 25 EU-member states are presented. Some EU-member states have different penalties for different limits and have different limits for novice drivers and professional drivers. These limits are not mentioned in Table 1.

Country Standard BAC limit (g/l)
Austria 0.5
Belgium 0.5
Cyprus 0.22
Czech Republic 0
Denmark 0.5
Estonia 0.2
Finland 0.22
France 0.5
Germany 0.5
Greece 0.5
Hungary 0
Rep. of Ireland 0.5
Italy 0.5
Latvia 0.5
Lithuania 0.4
Luxemburg 0.5
Malta 0.8
Netherland 0.5
Poland 0.2
Portugal 0.5
Slovakia 0
Slovenia 0.5
Spain 0.5
Sweden 0.2
United Kingdom 0.8

Table 1: legal alcohol limits for the general driver population

It is only possible to estimate the prevalence of drivers that are over the legal limit in a particular country accurately, when random roadside breath tests are carried out in a systematic way. The roadside breath tests carried out by the police are not suitable for the assessment of the prevalence as most of these tests are not random, but are purposely carried out at particular times (weekend nights) and in particular spots (in the vicinity of bars and discos). Except for the Netherlands, no recent real random samples from breath tests could be found that makes it possible to estimate the prevalence of driving above the legal limit. In the Netherlands on the basis of these samples of real random roadside breath tests (all hours of the day, all days of the week) carried out between 2001 and 2004, it is estimated that of all the car kilometres driven annually, a little less than 1 percent is driven by drivers with 0.5 g/l (the legal limit in the Netherlands) or more alcohol in their blood. In the Figures 1 to 6, the Dutch performance is more or less average. This may indicate that drivers with a BAC of 0.5 g/l or more drive approximately 1 percent of the annual total of kilometres driven in Europe. In order to get accurate estimates about the prevalence of drink driving in Europe, and in order to monitor the prevalence of drink driving, it should be made obligatory for all EU-member states to carry out the same standardized random breath tests for research purposes.