Nope. Not me. I was not driving drunk in Sweden. And neither was anyone I know actually. Instead, while I was wandering around one evening, I noticed something that made me think about the way drunk driving laws differ between the US and Sweden. And since I just wrote about Systembolaget and how they can help you get drunk on the cheap in Sweden, I thought this was a fitting follow-up.
The other day I was walking around Södermalm on my way to meet a buddy for a drink. And I passed a car parked on the side of the street. And glanced inside. Mostly because I am very nosy. Sitting in the cup holder extending from the dashboard, was a can of Sofiero. A classic Swedish beer. Not a very good one, but Swedish nonetheless. And it was open.
I did a bit of a double take. Because that just doesn’t fly in the US. No open alcoholic containers are allowed in cars. Hell, some places even make you put the alcohol in the trunk so it isn’t even within reach of the driver.
Drunk driving laws differ a bit between the US and Sweden. In the US, the drunk driving laws differ by state. But in Colorado it is a blood alcohol content level of .08%. I think most states are similar. Basically, that ends up being a couple of beers. Or a couple of glasses of wine. Or a couple of shots.
In Sweden though, the limit is .02%. Essentially, one or one and a half drink will put you over the limit. If you get really drunk and find yourself at .10% or above, you’ve graduated to an even higher level of punishment.
The punishments differ a bit as well. Sweden is pretty rough on drunk drivers. As they should be. This may be one of the few times when I actually think the Swedish justice system does a damn good job. From my understanding, drunk driving in Sweden can result in six months in prison and fines for the first level, and up to two years and fines for that magical level of .10%. There is also the possibility that your license will be suspended for up to five years. That’s a solid punishment.
In the US, the punishment, just like the laws, differs state by state. Your license might be pulled, but most likely you will just get restrictions. Fines are likely. Community service is possible as well as mandatory attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous is possible. Jail is possible. The ignition lock thing that checks to see if people have been drinking before the car will start is possible. But that’s the thing; there is no overriding punishment system. Some states don’t even pull your license after several drunk driving convictions. Others won’t put you in jail until your second conviction. It’s ridiculous.
Plenty of studies have been done which seem to show that this works. The punishment cuts down on drunk driving. It cuts down on the number of alcohol related accidents. So well done Sweden. And for those of you moving to Sweden. Pay attention. More than one drink will put you over the limit.
Welcome to Sweden. Where drunk driving laws make a difference.