Drinking and driving: Maximum authorised level of alcohol in the blood

Drinking and driving: Maximum authorised level of alcohol in the blood

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Drinking and driving: Maximum authorised level of alcohol in the blood


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Transport > Road transport

Drinking and driving: Maximum authorised level of alcohol in the blood

The purpose of this recommendation is to combat drinking and driving by setting a uniform maximum level of alcohol in the blood (AL) and encouraging cooperation on this matter within the Community in order to reduce public-health hazards.

Document or Iniciative

Commission recommendation of January 2001 concerning the maximum authorised level of alcohol in the blood (AL) of motor-vehicle drivers [Official Journal L 43 of 14.02.2001]


According to estimates at least 10 000 drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists suffer fatal accidents within the Community each year as a result of driver’s faculties being diminished by the consumption of alcohol. The research confirms that an alcohol level of between 0.5mg/ml and 0.8 mg/ml greatly increases the risk.

Making AL uniform throughout the Community would certainly send a more powerful message and provide a clearer reference.

This recommendation forms part of the proposed action programme relating to public health (2001-2006) which pinpointed alcohol as an area needing specific action as part of that on road safety.

Recommended authorised level of blood alcohol
The Commission recommends two different AL within the Community. They will be applied in accordance with the criteria for drivers and vehicles.

The standard AL for all motor vehicle drivers which should be adopted by all of the Member States is one not exceeding 0.5 mg/ml. At the moment most of the Member States have already adopted that AL limit.

In addition a second AL of 0.2 mg/ml is recommended for certain types of driver and vehicle, namely:

  • inexperienced drivers and more particularly holders of provisional driving licences, learner drivers accompanied by driving or trainee drivers attending a driving school and novice drivers having held a driving licence for less than two years;
  • motorcyclists;
  • drivers of large vehicles, i.e. lorries weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and any passenger vehicle fitted with more than eight passenger seats;
  • drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods, with reference to the measures set out in Directive 94/55/EC on the carriage of dangerous goods by road.

The term “driving licence” used in this recommendation refers to the definitions set out in Directive 91/439/EEC on driving licences.

Means of applying the AL
The recommendation feels that all of the Member States should adopt a system of random detection by analysing expelled air in order to dissuade drivers from drinking. Moreover, each driver should be exposed to a statistically real probability of being checked at least once every three years.

In addition the Commission feels that the Members States should work towards acceptance of the draft Directive on measuring instruments in order to harmonise breathalyser accuracy.

Followup at Community level
Close cooperation between the Member States and the Commission at Community level is recommended, more especially for:

  • exchanging information on best practice concerning, more particularly, monitoring and penalty strategies, retraining programmes and the acquisition of accident data;
  • supporting research and development, especially into technical means of preventing persons in a state of intoxication and persons receiving treatment for alcohol dependence from taking the wheel;
  • promoting publicity campaigns at European level in order to urge drivers not to consume alcohol;
  • providing data on all alcohol-related traffic accidents and to coordinate their use under the CARE programme in order to check the effectiveness of the policy and to provide a link with the activities under the Community’s future action programme on public health.

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