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Drinking and Driving: The Laws in Other Countries

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We all know drinking and driving is a dangerous combination. Driving under the influence is a cardinal sin of the road. We’ve listened to the warnings, we’ve read the statistics, and we’ve watched the After-School specials. We know it’s a bad thing to do and yet, some of us do it anyway.

Unfortunately, those who drink and drive often go unpunished. They simply don’t get pulled over or noticed by law enforcement. Those who do get pulled over, who cause an accident, or who are involved in any kind of automobile incident, often get noticed – in handcuffs.

In the United States, the punishment a person receives for drinking and driving is contingent on several factors, including the state where the offense occurred. While all 50 states have two statutory offenses — driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level of at least .08 — some states charge people for driving with a blood alcohol level of .05. Some states also make it illegal to have open containers in an automobile, where some do not. Most US states take into account the level of intoxication as well as the number of offenses. Based on these factors, some people do jail time, some people lose their license, and some people get off with a fine.

Other countries have different laws than the US. Some are more lenient and some are harsher. In Australia, the blood alcohol content is .05, and lower (.02) for new drivers and those with learner’s permits. The punishment for drinking and driving in Australia includes fines, suspension of license, imprisonment, and medical assessment before a driver’s license is reinstated.

In some countries, drinking and driving is punishable by death. A first time offense in El Salvador leads to execution by firing squad, while a second offense in Bulgaria also leads to execution.

In France, drinking and driving is punishable by the equivalent of a $1,000 fine, imprisonment for one year, and loss of license for three years. Finland and Sweden automatically sentence drunk drivers to one-year jail sentences including hard labor. In Norway, a drunk driver is jailed for three weeks with hard labor and loses their license for a year. If they do it again, they lose their license forever. In South Africa, drinking and driving results in a ten-year prison sentence or the equivalent of a $10,000 fine and, in some cases, both.

In Canada, the first drinking and driving offense warrants loss of license for one year and the equivalent of a $600 fine. The second offense warrants two weeks in jail and loss of license for two years. The third offense warrants three months in jail and loss of license for three years. After the fourth, they might just send you to America.

In England, a drunk driver pays the equivalent of a $250 fine, spends a year in jail, and then loses their license for one year. In Russia, drunk drivers simply lose their license for life. Yes, even Russia has laws against drinking and driving.

Some countries are more creative in their attempts to keep the inebriated off the road. Turkey, for example, punishes drunk drivers by taking them 20 miles from their town and making them walk back with a police escort. In Poland, drunk drivers are subject to jail, fine, and even worse, mandatory attendance at political lectures. In Malaya, if a man is caught driving drunk he is jailed. If he is married, his wife is jailed, too. In Costa Rica, the license plates are removed immediately from the cars of those who drink and drive.

Drinking and driving can cost a lot of money, a lot of freedom, and in worst cases, a lot of lives. In our world of available transportation, drinking and driving has no place. Instead of driving drunk, simply take a bus, take a cab, take a subway, or rent a limo. I would say don‘t even drink, but let‘s aim for something more feasible.

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About J Jordan

  • jules

    Don’t know where you get this weird information…Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, and therefore does not have a death penalty for anything, let alone drink-driving.

  • Sue

    Indeed I second what Jules says. No EU member country will punish any crime with a death sentence. In Bulgaria the last execution was carried out in 1989.

  • S.T.M

    I don’t believe there is an automatic one-year jail sentence for drink-driving in the UK. It’s probably on the books as an option depending on the level of alcohol in the blood and the carnage caused if there’s an accident, but it would normally be something reserved for recidivists. Hefty fines and loss of licence certainly are part of the program. Fines of up to 5000 pounds (about US$10,000) can be levied in some cases. An endorsement for drink driving remains noted on your licence for many years, too.

    The laws in Australia are similar.

  • S.T.M

    Also, Australian police use random breathtesting units. They just go out to a particular spot, say at 2am on a Saturday morning, and flag cars over in a long line and go through and breath test the drivers. Anyone over the limit gets held in a police van and then carted off to a police station for a proper breath analysis. If you’re over .05, it’s regarded as a serious criminial offence. Over .08 is more serious. However, in most states they are not supposed to use the breath testing as an excuse to check the licences or criminal records of drivers. It’s meant to be the breath test and that’s it … but if you don’t look right, well … you know how it is. Someone in a suit will drive away, while someone like me with long hair and three surfboards in the back will get questioned and have a torch shone around the car.

  • Omar Fuentes

    Are you serious? I am a Salvadorian living in El Salvador, and I can assure you that there is no death penalty here… much less for drunk driving. They recently made drunk driving a criminal offense, but that means a fine and maybe spending the night in jail… but no death penalty.

  • dude

    I think all this is true y because i learned it in drivers ed so i dont care what u all think mabey u should all go to el salvador and drink and drive see what they do to u. I mean since your all so sure u know everything.

  • Holy people will really kill for drinking fines, maybe thats a bit over board if you don’t think your self

  • danny

    i am cool that is my comment

  • victor

    i no these thing are true cause i also learned it so ya omar ur lying plus jennifer has been 2 a bunch o places around the world so she would now…..

  • jordan


  • me

    wuz up

  • Mobb Deep

    This White House press person, though a Republican, turns out to be a steaming great homosexual. Nothing wrong with that, of course; many of my best friends are Republicans. But now they’re making a scandal out of it. His domain names include:
    So what? He decided that the gay way is the best way, and I don’t blame him. If I lived in the States I think I might give it a try. American women are a pain in the arse. I went out with one once. She kept going on about how she had “goals”, and then she turned out to be religious. It was a nightmare. Try to find a French girl: they are better in every respect.

    But, Harry, a hot military stud in the White House… it’s not the gayness; it’s the hypocrisy. Oh, bollocks, who cares?

  • Mobb Deep times 2

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  • Ligia

    I think that in Australia and America the penalties are alright,fair and Reasonable, but for the ones in like El Salvador the punishment is just savage, I mean like come on DEATH? thats abit over board dont you think?

  • Ligia melanie vas

    Some people think that if they drink its ok. Well its not. Why drink for? doesnt make you more cool if thats what you want everyone to think. It makes you look like a desperato if you stop and think about it. We have all these young people the age of 14-18 who just drink and smoke. Alright if you want to kill yourself then go ahead but come on. your body cant handle all the drinking. Infact it take 1 hour to get rid of the alcohol in your body and the liver has to get rid of 90% of the alcohol in your body. give Your body a break. The rules are there for a reason, to keep drunk drivers off the roads so people dont get hurt or even Killed!

  • Alice

    Yes i agree with you on that, young people always argue about how polise are always after them, well what do you expect? you guys are the ones who are drinking and killing young people on the roads. Think about it for a while… your the one who is going to end up killing your friends if you drink and drive. Stop making it seem as if the bad people are the polise when really its you. You guys really got to quite drinking. What go does it do? seriously, GROW UP!

  • Mobb Deep

    Hey Hey

  • Mobb Deep

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  • Omar F.

    This is old, but whatever…
    So, Victor, since Jennifer has been to a lot of places, she knows better than someone who actually lives here? The death penalty does not exist in El Salvador since 1992. Besides, a few of my classmates were actually caught driving drunk on the weekend and were back to school on Monday. I dare anyone to prove this with a serious source (no “interesting facts” pages).

  • anne

    so this is all a lie??

  • Anne, it might *all* be a lie or there may be bits of truth in the original article. However, neither El Salvador nor Bulgaria use capital punishment for drunk driving. Neither do I believe that a Malayan (should be Malaysian) woman gets arrested for being married to a drunk driver. The original article is an example of sloppy investigation.

  • warrick young

    i think its all true i learned it in skooner
    school i had it easy i was on my green P’s
    went high range and only got six months
    and $800 fine.

  • Kane Lupis

    In Canada, if you’re really drunk, they’ll take your car away and sell it. No, you don’t get to keep the money.

  • afeather

    dam me and wez were on this website idk why its really fucking wack bye im going back 2 myspace

  • Mobb Deep

    Dude, talk about something different, all of u

  • Kyle Ahlers

    how are you credible?

  • Don

    well why don’t you retards go to the UK and drink and drive and find out the hard way duh

  • shut the fuck up all of yaz

  • Snow

    Mobb Deep. This articles is about drunk driving. It makes sense that the comment section should have people talking about the punishments of drunk driving.

  • haley

    i dont think the laws are that bad. if you can afford to buy a beer why can’t you afford a taxi home. its just making the roads safer.

  • Ty

    What were her sources on this? I can personally verify the that they don’t drive you out of town and make you walk back in Turkey.

  • Drink driver

    I was caught in South Africa for drink driving….the fine was $30.That was it!

    Sounds like just another dumb yank who’s been fed dis-information and sucked it up.Open your eye’s,there’s a real world outside Disney.

  • Tis True

    I learned all of these in Driver’s Ed, so if you don’t believe them, go to that country and test it out for yourself.

  • Jan

    Wow, the level of ignorance in America is always astonishing. “Oh, I heard it in my drivers ed class, so it must be true.”

    Has it ever crossed your mind that your underpayed, low-qualified drivers ed teacher may not be an expert of foreign laws? But hey, don’t trust people who are actually from the respective countries, I would definately rely on the unquestionable knowledge of Bubba at the local driving school.

  • carl

    j jordan needs to write these kinds of blogs since she is not popular and it hurts her. she wants fame so much that she is trying so hard. she doesnt understand that this blog just made her look stupid and ignorant as a journalist.

  • fsdf

    You forgot about the fines in Norway. If you are driving when drunk.. you will get a fine that is 1/12 of your yearly income.
    If you make 12 million dollars a year.. you will have to pay 1 million. And maybe do some time in prison (not a normal prison).
    It is supposed to sting.. no matter how rich you are. Something for California to learn from? They could make a lot of money on the entertainers . . .

  • Me

    It is true I learned it in a drunk driving inpatient treatment I had to take I doubt they use it these days but back then.

  • ang

    i DID read the damn article up to the name of Bulgaria. check up your information before writing s*** about places you’ve only heard of.

  • fsdfsadfasd

    OK.. errors..
    There are no death penalty for DUI in Bulgaria and el salvador..
    the prison sentences in other countries are also wrong in many cases.
    oh yeah.. fines. . if you drive when drunk in Norway the fine will be at least 1/10 of all the money you make in a year. If you make 100 million a year – your fine will be 10 million.
    Got to sting for everybody.

  • JanFan

    Finland and sweden does not sentence drunk drivers automaticly to 1 year inprisoment and hard labour!

    The stupid fact is they let the drunk driver go after fining him/her and taking away the licence. Wont even have to spend the night in jail.
    So many times those stupid drunk drivers go drunk drive again same night coz they dont want to leave their cars where they where left.

    The common sentence for a first time offence of severe drunkriving is taking away the licence somwhere between 6-12 months and some 300-1000 euro fine (depending on income)

    I wonder if any of the facts in the article are true ??

  • ddk

    Some of you shouldn’t drink and write.

  • thomas conead

    we should be able to drink at 18 if we want

  • Sophie

    So bogus…
    “Unfortunately, those who drink and drive often go unpunished. They simply don’t get pulled over or noticed by law enforcement. Those who do get pulled over, who cause an accident, or who are involved in any kind of automobile incident, often get noticed – in handcuffs.”

  • iowarail

    My wife is from El Salvador, and she says that the death penalty for DUI is not true, all though during the civil war just about anything could get you killed.

  • dawa

    this article is unscholarly

  • scobu

    I would suggest you get out of the dark ages. If hard labour in Norway means having to clean toilets or push a broom then you may well be right. Otherwise check your facts before trying such childish scare tactics.

  • socrates

    Where are your citations for these “facts” because I’m having trouble finding any of these penalties listed under the actual laws of the countries you mention. Upon researching, El Salvador has a BAC of 0.01 and the penalty for being over that is license suspension and immediate seizure of the vehicle according to something as simple to find as ehow.com. Could you spend a little bit of time researching your own facts before listing them in something that is read and distributed to people? …please?

  • Jason

    My brother got a DUI back in the early 90’s and had to attend a class and he brought back a pamphlet with various countries penalties for DUI. I do remember that Bulgaria at that time sentenced people to death for DUI. That was over 20 years ago, however, and I think they’ve since abolished the death penalty. I also believe that the harshest official sentence in El Salvador is now 25 years in prison, but 25 years in a Central American prison might as well be the death penalty.

  • JaehyeokChoi

    bulgaria don’t kill the drunken driver

  • PattyLou

    These responses are way too serious! I thought the article was supposed to make us laugh about such a serious subject; if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry, because soooo many people are seriously/permanently injured by drunk drivers, and if they’re ‘lucky’ they get killed. . .some of the survivors have such serious injuries they would rather be dead. . .