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DRIVING

Denmark cities to trial lower speed limits

The speed limit across 16 municipalities in Denmark could be lowered in a pilot scheme introduced by the Ministry of Transport to make roads safer.

Åboulevarden in Copenhagen. P
Åboulevarden in Copenhagen. On Monday 20th May, there will be a vote on whether to trial a lower the speed limit in the capital. Photo: Teitur Jonasson/Scanpix 2022

Following new speeding rules called hastighedsbekendtgørelsen, which were introduced by the Ministry of Transport on 6th January 2022, 16 municipalities in Denmark have been allowed to lower local speed limits from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour on selected sections in urban areas. 

This can be done without asking the police for permission and as long as it does not have a significant impact on the general traffic flow. It is part of a three-year pilot scheme to increase road safety. 

On Monday 30th May the Technical and Environmental Committee in Copenhagen will vote on whether to implement the lower speed limit in the capital.

The proposal is for there to be a maximum of 30 kilometres per hour in the entire inner city and 40 kilometres per hour in the outer part of the city, with some major roads maintaining the 50 kilometres per hour speed limit. 

“We want to slow down because it can help reduce CO2 emissions. We get better urban space, fewer serious traffic accidents, less air pollution and noise nuisance”, technical and environmental mayor Line Barfoed told DR News.

Dennis Lange from motorist organisation FDM doesn’t agree with Copenhagen’s plans. 

“The way the city of Copenhagen wants to do it is wrong. The pilot scheme does not aim to reduce the speed in the entire municipality. It is more about a political aversion to cars and about trying to get cars out”, he told DR News.

If the proposal for speed reductions is voted through on Monday, Copenhagen municipality will start the pilot scheme in Valby, and then roll it out over the rest of the city continuously over the next few years.

In Aalborg, lower speed limits begin this year. The municipality has already selected several stretches of road in the city centre, around schools and public institutions and on roads where there are many cyclists, as well as three villages including Gunderup.

“Hopefully there will be more calm, and we also have an easier time getting out of our driveway”, Gunderup resident Per Stig Larsen told DR News.

“We know that the speed has been a major nuisance for many citizens and has created unsafe conditions. If we can meet them, we want to. It is important to be able to move in a proper way and create better conditions in traffic”, Jan Nymark Thaysen, councillor for the City and Country department told DR News.

In Furesø, road engineer Anne Lisbeth Sørensen told DR News that three zones have been identified where the speed limit can be lowered but the physical work can only start in 2023, as they have not received money for it yet.

The 16 municipalities that are part of the lower speed limit scheme are: Aarhus, Aalborg, Frederiksberg, Allerød, Fredensborg, Frederikssund, Furesø, Gentofte, Hillerød, Hørsholm, Lyngby-Taarbæk, Rudersdal, Odense, Randers, Norddjurs and Copenhagen.

READ MORE: How and when should I exchange my foreign driving licence for a Danish one?

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DRIVING

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.

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