Drink Driving Laws In Other Countries And What India Can Learn
In 2011, the United Nations had launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety with the aim of reducing deaths on the world’s roads. With stagnating overarching international road fatality figures, it may seem that this agenda is succeeding, however, a large group of middle and low-income countries, including India, continue to be home to ever-increasing accidents, injuries, and deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies drink driving as one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths and one of the five key “risk factors” for deaths on the world’s roads. In 2015, according to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, some 6,777 individuals in India lost their lives as a direct consequence of drink driving.
India suffers from poor law enforcement for road safety norms in general, and drink driving in particular. The WHO gave enforcement of these laws a low 4 on 10 in its Global Report on Road Safety 2015. Additionally, existing laws in the country do not meet the international public health organisation’s standards of best legislative practice because they do not differentiate between alcohol limits for the general population and novice drivers.
Read More: Dangerous Roads: How India Compares To The World
Here is a look at what other countries have done to successfully bring down their drink driving rates.
Blood Alcohol Content Limit: 0.02% to 0.08% – 6 months licence suspension
Over 0.08% – 3 years imprisonment, 5 years licence suspension
Realising that driving under the influence of alcohol was one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths on roads, Chinese authorities began rigorously enforcing drink driving laws in 2008.
The country has stringent punishments for those found drink driving above the permissible limit of 0.02% blood alcohol content. These laws were further toughened in April 2011 with new legislation which criminalised driving with more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood.
Drink driving regulations are split into two slabs in China—with lighter punishments for those with 0.02% to 0.08% alcohol in their bloodstream and anyone falling into a higher slab looking at possible prison time. Individuals falling into the lower slab have their licences suspended for 6 months with a fine of Yuan 1,000 to Yuan 2,000 (₹9,500 to ₹19,000 approximately), while those going over the 0.08% limit are tried as criminals. According to the government, this law had the desired effect and drink driving incidents fell by 40 per cent within a year of its adoption.
Chinese authorities also strictly implement these laws. This is reflected in the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave China 9 out of 10 for enforcement of drink driving laws.
Blood Alcohol Content Limit: 0% to 0.06% – 12 months licence suspension and fine
Over 0.06% – 6 months to 3 years imprisonment
Punishment is given to anyone found with even a little bit of alcohol in their bloodstream in Brazil which has had a strict zero-tolerance to drink driving since 2008, popularly known as the ‘Dry Law’. In practice, however, a 0.02% blood alcohol content level is generally tolerated to account for variations in breathalyser readings.
Also Read: 5 Things To Know About Breathalysers
Like China, the Brazilian drink driving law determines punishments based on two limits—those found with 60 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood or lesser face having their licences revoked for a year and must pay a fine of R$ 957 (around ₹20,000). Anyone found driving with more alcohol than this is criminally liable and can be jailed for anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. These laws also prohibit the sale of alcohol along federal roads.
Rio de Janeiro reported a 32% decline in road accident-related deaths in the first 3 years of the law’s implementation, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.
The WHO gives Brazil a 7 out of 10 rating for its enforcement of laws regulating drink driving. However, according to reports, the enforcement of these is not uniform across the country and is mainly concentrated in urban centres like Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Blood Alcohol Content Limit: 0.035% to 0.09% – $2000 to $4000 (₹9,500 to ₹19,000) fine & 1 to 3 year licence suspension
Over 0.09% – $5000 (₹23,000) fine and 6 months to 3 years imprisonment
Singapore is widely considered to have some of the strictest punishments for drink driving in the world. Punishments are meted out according to the amount of alcohol detected in the blood stream and the number of times the individual has been caught committing the offence.
Additionally, repeat offenders face greater jail time in Singapore. Third-time offenders can be fined a whopping $30,000 (₹14.3 lakh) and be jailed for 3 years.
In terms of enforcement, Singapore gets an 8 out of 10 rating from the WHO which also estimates that 11% of road fatalities in the country are related to drink driving.
Blood Alcohol Content Limit: General population – 0.05% – punishment as prescribed by states’ law
Learners – 0% – punishment as prescribed by states’ law
Like Singapore, Australia also gets a high rating of 8 out of 10 score for the enforcement of drink driving laws from the WHO. The most significant thing about the drink driving laws in the country is its differentiation between novice and experienced drivers. In contrast, India has one overarching blood alcohol limit for all drivers which is the reason that it does not meet best legislative practice standards set by the WHO.
Australian law does not allow learners and people holding provisional licences (a licence given after a learner’s licence which requires further testing to meet set proficiency levels) to drive after drinking any alcohol.
Punishments that are given for being caught drink driving vary from state to state, with all having a system of fines that increases amounts with the percenage of alcohol found in the blood and the number of times the offence has been committed and some having a provision for imprisonment which can vary from 3 months to 2 years.
Blood Alcohol Content Limit: General population – 0.05% – €135 to €4500 (₹9,800 to ₹3.2 lakh) fine and possible imprisonment
Drivers with less than 3 years of experience – 0.02%
Pushed by a 3.7 per cent rise in fatal accidents in 2014, France lowered its blood alcohol content limits in July 2015. Initially, the country had a uniform 0.05% limit for all drivers. This is now been lowered for inexperienced drivers to 0.02%, a move that the French government had claimed targeted the 18 to 24 age group as a quarter of all young driver deaths were directly linked to drink driving in 2013 and 2014.
People found with 0.05% to 0.08% blood alcohol content are fined €135 (₹9,800 approximately), which has to be paid on the spot. Individuals with over 0.08% are subject to confiscation of licence, fine up to €4,500 (₹3.2 lakh approximately) and the possibility of 2 years of imprisonment.
Like Singapore and Australia, the WHO gives France 8 out of 10 for the enforcement of drink driving laws.