According to the European Transport Safety Council, the European Union populous consumes more alcohol than any other region of the world. It is estimated that around 25% of all traffic fatalities in the EU are alcohol related.  This is actually lower than the estimated percentage of drunk driving related fatal accidents in North America, but the statistical difference may be explained by the fact that North America sees far more people driving longer distances than in Europe where public transportation abounds, where many people don’t even have a car, and if they do, their typical driving trips are generally cover far less distance than a driving trip on this continent.

Even so, drunk driving is an issue in Europe, just as it is here. And as on this side of the pond, attitudes towards drunk driving and stricter laws and enforcement have had an effect. Road deaths attributed to drunk driving have been on the decline in Europe, but that hasn’t save the thousands of lives that are lost each year in Europe after a drunk driving collision.

The European Transport Safety Council issued a report this year titled “Progress in Reducing Drink Driving in Europe.”  (Drink driving being what we call drunk, or drunken, driving in this country.) The report is interesting for what it tells us about reducing drunk driving country by country.

One of the highlights is the small country of Estonia, where the number of traffic deaths related to drunk driving decreased 89% over the course of 10 years—from 2006 to 2016. Now that’s a huge decrease but since the population in the country is small (its population is 1/3 that of Orange County), it may be somewhat misleading (61 deaths in 2006; 7 deaths in 2016). Nevertheless, the decrease is attributed to the country’s introduction of a .02 BAC% limit in 2000 and its strict drunk driving enforcement.

Estonia’s Baltic neighbor, Latvia, saw an almost equally impressive decrease in drunk driving deaths of 80% over the same ten year period. Like its neighbor, Latvia introduced tougher drunk driving laws with corresponding tough enforcement in the last decade. The BAC limit in Latvia is .05%

As we run through the list of EU countries, we still see impressive decreases in drunk driving related deaths.  For example, in Denmark, deaths have decreased at an annual rate of over 12% per year and in Germany, the rate of drunk driving deaths has decreased from 11.8% in 2006 to 7% in 2016. Overall EU alcohol-related driving deaths have decreased by an estimated 47% between 2006 and 2016.

Most EU countries have a BAC limit of 0.05% (as recommended by the European Commission). Four EU countries have zero tolerance laws meaning the legal BAC limit is 0.00% (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia).  Five countries have a 0.02% limit (Cyprus, Estonia, Poland, Sweden, and Norway).  Only Malta and the United Kingdom have BAC limits above 0.05%, with both matching the U.S. limit of 0.08%.

In the EU countries, drunk driver offenders are typically fined on at fixed amounts.  They also may lose their license to drive for 2 to 12 months. Interestingly, Europe makes an important distinction between repeat offenders and the first-and only-time offender. Recognizing that repeat convictions are symptomatic of an underlying addiction, the focus is on treatment and rehabilitation. While it is true that in the U.S., with every additional DUI, the offender is required to longer and more intensive treatment and alcohol education, but European countries put their primary focus on the repeat offender.

Ignition Interlock deviceshave also been introduced in Europe. However, the Council’s report suggests that these devices are not as widely ordered as they are in California due to concerns about legal challenges.

Orange County DUI defense attorney William Weinberg likes statistics. He is also passionate about providing the best defense to his clients. You may contact him at his Irving office at 949-474-8008 to arrange a complimentary consultation regarding your driving under the influence matter. You may also contact him by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.