England & Wales – the highest Drink-Drive limit in Europe….

Limits are set in a number of different units – microgrammes of ethanol in air (µg/100ml), milligrammes of ethanol in blood (mg/l) and BAC% (Blood Alcohol Content) are all common terms; they are no different to measuring the weight of something in say grammes, kilos, pounds, stones etc.

Driving Limits
Scotland reduced their limit to 22µg/100ml in December 2014. The legal limit for alcohol levels in the body while in control of a vehicle in England & Wales is 35µg of ethanol in 100ml of breath. For those involved in the transportation industry, much stricter limits apply (for full details see here) but in principle aircrew, maritime and railway employees are all subject to a limit that is just one quarter of the above, i.e. 9µg/100ml. 

The following is the same limit expressed in a variety of other units:

  • 35µg/100ml micrograms – as used by UK Police & Certified Breathalyzers such as the Draeger 5510
  • 80 mg/100ml – the blood/alcohol level commonly used before breathalyzer testing
  • 0.35 mg/L – typically used in Europe
  • 0.08%BAC – used by largely in the USA

All these represent the same thing – just expressed in different units

The English driving limit is one of the highest in Europe and is a long way from representing a level where someone is not impaired whilst driving.  It is generally accepted that the “zero impairment” level – ie the point above which alchol starts to impair a persons’ judgment, reaction times and co-ordination is 9µg/100ml and most European countries set this as the maximum level for any form of commercial work, be that driving, flying or operating a ship. 

Below is a map of Europe showing the various limits that apply:

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