Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the United States has among the highest rates of death from drunk driving in the world, with 31 percent of all fatal accidents being attributed to alcohol impairment. You might be surprised to learn that our neighbor to the north, Canada, has an even higher rate at 34 percent and South Africa’s rate is even higher at 58%–that represents 25.1 deaths caused by impaired drivers for every 100,000 people in South Africa. These three countries, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety (2015) have the three highest rates in the world of road deaths caused by impaired drivers. Australia, France, and Italy come in just below the United States at 30 percent, 29 percent, and 25 percent, respectively.
There may be a number of reasons to explain the high rate of fatalities caused by impaired drivers, including lack of public transportation options and dispersed population centers. But Russia, a country rumored to celebrate drinking and a country with a huge land mass, is reported to have only 9 percent of its road fatalities caused by drunk driving. Now you might reasonably surmise that Russia’s statistical reporting is lacking or otherwise manipulated, but the World Health Organization, which compiled this report takes into account any data manipulation or lack of reliable statistics. Germany, a country known for its robust beer drinking, matches Russia’s 9 percent rate.
Could these differences be explained by the drunk driving laws? Perhaps, but probably not by the legal BAC levels. Canada (most provinces) and the United States have a 0.08 percent BAC threshold. But the legal limit is South Africa is 0.05 percent BAC. And while Germany and Russia have a 0.05 percent BAC legal threshold, so does Australia, France and Italy, countries that have a much higher rate of deaths caused by impaired drivers. Consider that France, with a 29 percent rate of drunk driving fatalities has a 0.05 percent BAC threshold, while Great Britain, with a 16 percent rate of drunk driving fatalities has a 0.08 percent BAC limit.