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European Drink Drive Limits

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.

However, since a Breathalyser can only measure alcohol in breath, if the limit is expressed in one of the various blood-alcohol terms then an arbitary figure called the "partition ratio" is used to estimate, from the amount of alcohol in the breath, what the persons' blood alcohol is likely to be.  This is not an exact science (see our FAQ) and as a result if a country uses a blood alcohol limit in law, and a person who is breathalysed disputes the estimated blood-alcohol result, they should be able to ask for a blood test to determine their actual level.  For this reason, many countries - the UK included - now express the legal limit as a ratio of alchol in air (eg the UK limit of 35µg/100ml breath) which makes a blood test irrelevant as it is the breath level that is the legal maximum.

UK Limits
The legal limit for alcohol levels in the body while in control of a vehicle is 35µg of ethanol in 100ml of breath, often dispalyed as:

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, ie:

At these low levels only Fuel Cell Evidential Testers are able to provide accurate readings. 

The UK Drink 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:

European Drink Driving Limit Map

Note that this information is given for guidance only and should not be relied upon in any way.