Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
15 Nov 2021
5:33 pm

How SA’s blood alcohol limit compares to other countries

Kaunda Selisho

South Africa’s blood alcohol limit (how much alcohol you can have and still be allowed to drive) is more relaxed than in some countries.

Photo for illustrative purposes. Image from iStock.

Would you be able to remember the legal blood alcohol limit in South Africa without having to Google it?

If not, don’t worry, you’re in the majority.

You might also not know that South Africa’s blood alcohol limit (the amount of alcohol you can have in your system and still be allowed to drive) is more relaxed than in other countries.

In order to highlight this difference, car rental experts Stress-Free Car Rental did some research and put it into a world map to highlight the difference. 

“Across the world, there are some interesting variations in what is allowed. In the United States, England and Wales, the limit is 0.08% (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood). Only the Cayman Islands is higher – the limit is 0.1%. Meanwhile, here in South Africa, and in Scotland, Australia and Spain for example, the limit is 0.05% (50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood),” explained Stress-Free Car Rental. 

However, many other countries prefer the ‘none for the road’ alcohol philosophy when it comes to the blood alcohol limit as evidenced by their zero-tolerance rules.

“More than 30 countries worldwide do not permit you to drive with any alcohol in your system – while alcohol is prohibited in a further handful of countries.”

READ: Drunk driving amendment misses the mark – AA

The company also explained that these rules are very much a grey area in some other places which have no legal driving limit in place for alcohol levels in the bloodstream. 

As such, it is difficult to determine the attitudes of the authorities in these places towards alcohol and driving with no legal limit in place.

“Many countries believe the safest amount of alcohol you should drink before getting behind the wheel of a car is nothing.

Stress-Free Car Rental map of drink-drive limits from around the world | Picture: Supplied

“Our world map shows some of the differences in drink-drive limits in different countries which is of particular interest for anyone who might be planning a journey abroad and seeking to drive in another country,” said a spokesperson for StressFreeCarRental.com

The legal BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) limits for each country are based on the maximum legal prescribed limit allowed for the average adult experienced driver. 

What is a blood alcohol limit?

The blood alcohol limit or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a way to measure alcohol levels in the blood by recording the milligrams of ethanol per millilitres of blood. 

Most countries observe maximum legal BAC limits. Your blood alcohol limit can also be measured by urine and breath tests.

“Additional lower legal limits may be set in certain countries for inexperienced drivers, young drivers or professional drivers.”

Blood alcohol limits from around the world

Countries with a zero-tolerance rule to alcohol and driving: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Brazil, Czech Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Georgia, Guinea, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Nepal, Oman, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Sudan, Tajikstan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Countries with no set blood alcohol content limit: Bhutan, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Gabon, Indonesia, The Congo, Togo and Vanuatu.

Countries where alcohol is prohibited: Brunei, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

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