So you’ve just enjoyed an exotic dinner including a liberal sampling of the local alcoholic libations (some of which are quite potent), and now it’s time to drive home. Be honest, do you have any idea what your blood alcohol level might be? Nearly 90% of the world’s countries have a national drunk-driving law on the books. Of course enforcement varies, but worrying about whether you’ll be stopped and booked is only part of the story. Think of the risk you pose to the local populace and yourself when you get behind the wheel. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the legal Breath Alcohol Concentration (or BAC) for driving be less than or equal to 0.05 g/dl, and 50% of countries have implemented these rules. In the U.S., the legal limit is 0.08.

Unfortunately, this disparity seems to predict the likelihood of road deaths attributable to alcohol.  The WHO’s recent report on road safety around the world places the U.S. among the top twenty countries where you are most likely to die on the road (or cause the death of someone else) if you’ve been drinking.

Percent of road deaths attributable to alcohol

From this limited data set (not all countries are reporting), we can begin to conclude that American drinking habits generally pose significantly more risk than the locals’ do. Add this American propensity to drink and drive to the need to negotiate unfamiliar or substandard roads as well as signs in foreign languages, and Americans clearly represent a significant threat behind the wheel when far from home, unless they act responsibly.

It may be best to always let someone else drive if you plan to drink at all. In Brazil, the legal limit is just 0.02, and violators are hit with a $600 fine. For many people, just one drink puts you over this limit.

Have you had a drinking and driving incident abroad?


About The Author

Michael Hartung, editor of Healthy Travel Blog, serves as head of Product Development at HTH Worldwide. Mike is responsible for all product strategy and development for the company. Mike has over twenty years of successful product innovation to his credit. He has played a senior management role in three start-up companies and has built complex organizations in rapid growth environments. Prior to joining HTH in 2000, he served as President of U.S. Healthcare’s Workers Comp Advantage subsidiary, which he co-founded with Angelo Masciantonio. Mike has also served in senior roles at Aon Consulting, Vantage Health Partners and Managed Health Care Services. Mike earned an M.B.A. from New York University, an M.A. from Duke University and a B.A. from Carleton College.

1 Comment

  1. When I lived in Australia, they cracked down big time on this (so I’m surprised to see it up there at 30% on the chart). I did not have a car, but knew several who literally got the equivalent of America’s DUI because they had ANY alcohol in their blood. It didn’t matter what the amount was – it just wasn’t tolerated to have even a drink and drive. Similarly, my friend from London was appalled that people here will drink anything and get in the car at all. Though quite known for good times at the pub, she said her group always picks a designated driver and that person does not drink at all.

    Luckily, many big foreign cities (such as London) have excellent public transportation systems and you often do not have to drive.

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