Click the coloured countries to see in-depth drink-driving country profiles.
According to European Commission estimates, 25% of all road deaths across the EU are alcohol related. Drink driving is one of the three main killers, the others are excessive speed and the failure to wear seatbelts. Around 6,500 deaths could be prevented each year if all drivers obeyed the law on drink driving.
ETSC aims to contribute to the reduction of alcohol-related road deaths and injuries by advocating for appropriate regulatory measures at the EU and national level, and through the identification and promotion of best practice.
There are currently five different blood alcohol (BAC) limits across Europe.
Scope of the problem
Europe is the heaviest drinking region in the world, with a prevalence of heavy episodic drinking in excess of one fifth of the adult population. Data from the latest WHO Report on Alcohol and Health 2010 show that alcohol consumption decreased during the 1990s, then increased and stabilised at a higher level than between 2004 and 2006. The European average of 9.2 litres of pure alcohol consumed per year hides big differences among countries. Countries such as Malta, Norway and Sweden have a lower level of alcohol consumption than Estonia, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
Alcohol, even in small quantities, immediately affects the brain system. Effects on the human body and behaviour range from anaesthesia after large amounts of alcohol to impairment of behavioural and cognitive capabilities after small doses. Alcohol may also decrease motivation to comply with safety standards, which may result in an active search for dangerous situations (such as competitive behaviour, or excessive speed). In general, all functions which are important in the safe operation of a motor vehicle can be affected by the levels of alcohol well below current legal limits operating in EU countries.
When a driver has a BAC of 1.5g/l the injury crash rate is 22 times that of a sober driver.
Impairment through alcohol is an important factor influencing both the risk of a road crash as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes. Drivers who have been drinking have a much higher risk of involvement in crashes than those with no alcohol in their blood, and this risk increases rapidly with increasing blood alcohol content. It has been estimated that a BAC of 0.8g/l increases the crash risk of a driver 2.7 times compared to a zero BAC. When a driver has a BAC of 1.5g/l the injury crash rate is 22 times that of a sober driver. Not only the crash rate grows rapidly with increasing BAC but the crash also becomes more severe. With a BAC of 1.5g/l the crash rate for fatal crashes is about 200 times that of sober drivers.
Find out more
Changes to road safety laws in Italy could lead to the introduction of alcohol interlock programmes for drink driving offenders, as well as updates to numerous road safety rules. The new legal proposal to introduce alcohol interlocks came from the CNEL, a state body with the power to propose new legislation, and has been presented to the two houses of the Italian parliament, marking the first step on the road to adoption. Meanwhile long-running proposals to update an array of other Italian road safety […]
Collisions caused by drink-drivers who only use alcohol, and drug drivers differ in terms of timing and types of accidents and it is common for drug users to use several intoxicants at the same time according to new research by the Finnish Crash Data Institute (OTI), an ETSC member. The latest OTI substance abuse report looked at fatal collisions investigated in Finland over the period 2014–2018 and drivers who had been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. The investigators found […]
The Italian government has announced an agreement between the Ministry of Interior and the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) to increase road traffic enforcement by engaging city police in tasks previously assigned to traffic police and national police. The agreement, announced earlier this month, followed the deaths of seven German tourists, killed by a single drink-driver in the ski resort of Lutago outside a night club. 11 others were injured in the crash. Road deaths increased last year in Italy according to the […]
The Irish Road Safety Authority (RSA) says new figures show that drug driving is a major problem on Ireland’s roads. Cannabis is now not far behind alcohol in blood and urine samples examined by the Irish Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), according to the RSA. According to the new data, 68% of drivers with a positive roadside drug test, between April 2017 and July 2019, had a positive test for cannabis. Cocaine follows closely behind as the main illicit drug detected after cannabis, […]
The Lithuanian Ministry of Transport has launched an alcohol interlock programme as a pathway to a shorter driving ban for high-level drink-driving offenders. From 1 January, convicted drink-drivers who have lost their driving license will, after a set period of time, be able to apply for their license to be reinstated with provision that they only drive a vehicle fitted with an alcohol interlock. “I hope that the introduction of the alcohol interlock system will reduce the number of repeat offences of those who […]