Dispute over blood alcohol content clouds application of points system

Photo: CTK

The new penalty points system has been in place on Czech roads for just under three weeks, but already a dispute has arisen between the police and prosecutors' office over the details of the new regulations. The dispute centres around the amount of alcohol permissible in a driver's blood, and is generating a good deal of headlines in the media.

Photo: CTK
Open any road atlas of the Czech Republic and you'll see that officially the country has a zero tolerance policy towards drink driving. You are allowed to drive with 0.0 % of alcohol in your blood, and if caught drinking and driving, under the new system you face being penalised with up to seven points. Run up 12 points, and you lose your licence.

No system, however, is absolute. The devil, it seems, is in the details. The Czech police use the "promile" system of measuring blood alcohol content. If someone has a blood alcohol content of 1 promile, it means they have 100 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Under the new driving rules, the police treat a measurement of anything up to 0.8 promile as a misdemeanour, i.e. not subject to penalty points. Anything over 0.8 promile is treated as a criminal offence.

The state prosecutors' office, however, says the police are wrong to do that, because Czech law sets the limit between crime and misdemeanour at 1 promile. Hence the dispute.

A measurement of 0.8 promile sounds very exact, but unfortunately it's difficult to translate into pints of beer and glasses of wine. It all depends on exactly what you drank, when you drank it, how much you weigh, whether you're a man or a woman, and subsequently how quickly your body will burn off the alcohol.

Generally speaking, it takes the average man about one and a half hours to burn off the alcohol contained in one pint of beer - the weaker 10 degree variety, not, for example Pilsner Urquell, which is a 12 degree beer. For wine and spirits, it's much longer.

So if you don't want to risk falling foul of the Czech police and their breathalysers, don't drink anything at all before driving. And also be very careful about driving the day after a night on the tiles - you could be in for a nasty surprise.