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Document 32001H0115

Commission Recommendation of 17 January 2001 on the maximum permitted blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers of motorised vehicles (Text with EEA relevance) (notified under document number C(2000) 4397)

OJ L 43, 14.2.2001, p. 31–36 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)



Commission Recommendation of 17 January 2001 on the maximum permitted blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers of motorised vehicles (Text with EEA relevance) (notified under document number C(2000) 4397)

Official Journal L 043 , 14/02/2001 P. 0031 - 0036

Commission Recommendation

of 17 January 2001

on the maximum permitted blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers of motorised vehicles

(notified under document number C(2000) 4397)

(Text with EEA relevance)



Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 71 thereof,


(1) One of the objectives of the common transport policy is to lay down common rules applicable to international transport within the Community, in particular with regard to the safety of road users in the Member States.

(2) The Commission adopted a road safety programme of specific measures to improve road safety in April 1997(1), and priorities were established in March 2000(2).

(3) The growth in road passenger and freight transport since 1988 has increased exposure to road accidents in the past decade.

(4) It has been estimated that between 1 % and 5 % of drivers in traffic have BAC levels above their maximum national BAC limits and that such drivers are proportionately much more likely to be involved in road accidents, accounting for up to 20 % of fatal and serious injuries, and up to 25 % of driver fatalities. There is a need to separate irresponsible drinking behaviour from driving.

(5) It is estimated that at least 10000 drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists are killed every year in road accidents in which a driver's competence was impaired due to alcohol on roads in the Community.

(6) Research confirms that the relative risk of accident involvement increases significantly at BAC levels above 0,5 mg/ml and that for the average driver the relative risk of accident involvement is about twice that of a driver with zero BAC, within the 0,5 to 0,8 mg/ml range. In fatal accidents the relative risk is much higher.

(7) The primary aim of a more uniform maximum BAC limit within the Community is to provide a clearer and more consistent message to drivers of passenger and freight vehicles that, above a certain limit, alcohol and driving is a dangerous activity and that different limits in different Member States are potentially confusing and weaken the message that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous.

(8) A more uniform BAC limit will provide a clearer reference for national enforcement. Wherever drivers are driving within the Community they should be more aware of a more uniform limit above which, if they are caught, they will be subject to the penalties applicable in the national jurisdiction where the offence was committed.

(9) There is ample evidence that reductions in BAC limits, supported by effective enforcement and publicity, can reduce inappropriate drinking and driving at all BAC levels.

(10) It is estimated that at least a 10 % reduction in all fatalities in accidents involving inappropriate drinking and driving is not unreasonable from a package of measures incorporating national enforcement and publicity based around reduced BAC limits, and that greater reductions are possible from more extensive enforcement.

(11) It is likely that the social value of complementary concerted action to reduce inappropriate drinking and driving, based around a more uniform regime of BAC limits, is more than likely to outweigh the costs of enforcement and economic adjustment.

(12) Most Member States have already adopted 0,5 mg/ml as their maximum permissible BAC limit.

(13) An even lower BAC limit of 0,2 mg/ml is relevant for those drivers and riders who have a much higher accident risk, either because of their lack of experience and/or the type of vehicles they drive, and also for drivers of large goods and passenger carrying vehicles, and also for drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods.

(14) Member States need to be particularly aware of the increased accident risk arising from the use of some illegal and legal drugs with alcohol and the need to reflect this in their national legislation.

(15) Member States should appreciate the mutual benefit to be derived from sharing BAC (and breath equivalent) test information to increae the sample size for assessing the efficacy of measures to reduce inappropriate drinking and driving, and also from sharing research evidence about driver impairment.

(16) Inappropriate drinking and driving is also a significant public health problem, to the extent that Article 152 of the Treaty seeks to ensure that a high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies and activities. Furthermore, Community action in the field of public health shall be directed towards improving public health, preventing human illness and disease and obviating sources of danger to health.

(17) Article 152 provides for Community competence in public health in so far as the Community contributes to it by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by lending support to their action, and by taking any useful initiative, in close contact with the Member States, to promote the coordination of the Member States' policies and programmes.

(18) In the Communication from the Commission on the Health Strategy of the European Community and the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council adopting a programme for action in the field of public health (2001 to 2006)(3), alcohol is one of the areas mentioned in which particular measures and actions could be undertaken such as the development of measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of injury or death.

(19) Within this framework the drink-driving problem is certainly one of the most important issues to be considered from an alcohol policy perspective. It is, however, one of the less controversial issues from a risk reduction point of view although not necessarily so from a political point of view,



1. For the purposes of this Recommendation the following definitions apply:

(a) "driver of a vehicle" means any driver of a motorised vehicle with three or more wheels,

(b) "rider of a vehicle" means only the driver of any motorised two-wheel vehicle and shall not include any accompanying pillion passengers,

(c) "inexperienced driver" means:

(i) any learner driver who is learning to drive and who does not hold a driving licence in accordance with Council Directive 91/439/EEC(4). This shall include provisional driving licence holders, accompanied unlicensed learner drivers under instruction - conduite accompagnée, or drivers attending driving school,

(ii) any novice driver who has held a driving licence in accordance with Council Directive 91/439/EEC for less than two years and may or may not be taking part in a probationary driving scheme,

(d) "large vehicle" means a heavy goods vehicle greater than 3,5 tonnes gross vehicle weight, and any passenger carrying vehicle with more than eight passenger seats,

(e) "vehicle carrying dangerous goods" means a vehicle displaying the identification plate, and drivers carrying the training certificate, referred to in Appendix B5 and Appendix B6 respectively to Council Directive 94/55/EC(5).


2. All Member States should adopt a legal maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0,5 mg/ml, or lower, for drivers and riders of all motorised vehicles.

3. All Member States should adopt a lower legal maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0,2 mg/ml, or lower, for the following groups of road user:

(a) inexperienced drivers;

(b) riders of two-wheeled motor vehicles;

(c) drivers of large vehicles;

(d) drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods.

4. All Member States should adopt random breath testing to deter drivers from drinking to the extent that every driver has a realistic statistical probability of being tested to the current best practice standard of at least once every three years.

5. All Member States should work towards the acceptance of the draft Measuring Instruments Directive to harmonise the accuracy of alcohol breath testing devices.


6. All Member States should call upon the Commission to work closely with them to:

(a) exchange information on best practice concerning, for example, enforcement strategies, rehabilitation programmes, accident data collection;

(b) support research and development, especially into the technological possibilities for stopping drink-drivers, and drivers being treated for alcohol problems, from driving;

(c) support European wide publicity campaigns which encourage drivers not to drink and drive;

(d) supply and coordinate the use of all alcohol related road accident data within the ambit of the CARE programme for monitoring the effectiveness of policy, and to provide a cross reference to the activities of the future programme of community action in the field of public health(6).

Done at Brussels, 17 January 2001.

For the Commission

Loyola De Palacio


(1) Promoting road safety in the EU: The programme for 1997 to 2001 (COM(97) 131 final).

(2) Priorities in EU road safety: Progress report and ranking of actions (COM(2000)125).

(3) OJ C 337, 28.11.2000, p. 122.

(4) OJ L 237, 24.8.1991, p. 1.

(5) European Agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road (ADR) and protocol of signature (Volume II): ECE/TRANS/130 Vol II.

(6) See footnote 3.


The following table indicates some of the reported success in reducing fatalities, accidents, or conviction rates, in those countries where BAC reductions have been introduced, usually with accompanying measures to reduce inappropriate drinking and driving. It also reports on estimated reductions from reductions in BAC limits.

The results are summarised in the report of the working group on alcohol drugs and medicines for the high-level group: October 1999: