Drunk Driving Laws & Limits in Germany 2023: How Much Alcohol Can You Drink and Drive?

Drinking and driving in Germany

The legal threshold for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when operating a vehicle in Germany is 0.05% (equivalent to 50 grams of alcohol per liter of blood). If you violate this restriction, you may face penalties and other consequences.

The amount of alcohol required to reach a BAC of 0.05% can vary depending on personal factors such as weight and gender, with the average person typically requiring one to two standard drinks.

This article aims to offer insight and increase understanding of the hazards of drunk driving in Germany. It’s important to note that this website does not endorse or approve drunk driving in any place or circumstance.

In 2020, Germany recorded 2,719 fatalities from road accidents, which is a decrease of 10.7% compared to 2019. Alcohol was identified as a contributing factor in roughly 4.9% of injury crashes and 5.8% of fatal crashes, resulting in one fatality for every 17 incidents. It’s worth noting that the number of alcohol-related crashes and deaths has been consistently decreasing.

As of 2021, Germany has launched its 2021-2030 Road Safety Programme. This initiative outlines the country’s goals for road safety over the next decade and highlights essential priorities for action. It aims to decrease fatalities by 40% and significantly reduce the number of severe injuries by 2030.

Driving while intoxicated poses significant safety risks. The best course of action is to completely avoid driving after consuming alcohol. If driving is necessary, it is recommended to use designated driver services, taxis, or other forms of transportation.

It is crucial to adhere to laws and regulations regarding drunk driving. Before getting behind the wheel, it is vital to determine your BAC. An alcohol breathalyzer is a dependable tool for measuring your BAC.

For further information on drunk driving restrictions in Germany, we advise checking the official website of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in Germany

After the first drink, signs of intoxication may appear, weakening rational thinking and potentially driving individuals to engage in behaviors they would not normally engage in when sober.

The greatest danger of driving when impaired by alcohol or drugs is the higher probability of causing a collision.

After intake, alcohol typically takes 30 minutes to 2 hours to enter your system. Driving when intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is dangerous since it can damage many aspects of your driving, including the following:

  • your ability to gauge distance and speed,
  • cohesion and reaction time,
  • cause eyesight fog or impairment
  • unpredictable behavior,
  • panic attacks, etc.
  • paranoia, 
  • hallucinations,
  • nausea,
  • drowsiness,
  • aggression,
  • dizziness, and 
  • tremors.

The effects of alcohol and drugs can occur even if you don’t appear or feel intoxicated. 

Additionally, consuming these substances can produce a false sense of confidence, leading to more reckless behavior and putting yourself and others in danger while driving.

Although the legal limit for BAC limit in Germany is 0.05%, you should note that the effects of alcohol can vary on each individual, and several factors can impact a person’s BAC levels.

The following factors can influence blood alcohol concentration:

  • weight
  • gender
  • hunger
  • stress levels
  • amount of alcohol consumed
  • medications taken

Before going behind the wheel, it is advisable to check your blood alcohol level. Even if you look sober, your driving abilities could be impaired by alcohol. After consuming alcoholic beverages, some persons may experience trembling or faintness.

While a BAC calculator and BAC chart can help you calculate how much alcoholic beverages you can drink before driving, remember that these tools may not be universally helpful or applicable because people’s reactions to alcohol differ.

A certified alcohol breathalyzer is the best way to determine your BAC.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in Germany

Individuals with blood alcohol concentration levels ranging from 0.010% to 0.029% may appear sober and not show significant signs of impairment. However, as BAC levels increase, the symptoms of alcohol-related impairment become more noticeable.

Drunk driving laws differ across countries. Checking your BAC level before driving is advisable to avoid fines and penalties.

The following outlines the consequences of drinking and driving in Germany.

BAC Level 0.05% to 0.10% 

Driving or operating a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.05% (0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood) up to 0.10% (1.09 grams of alcohol per liter of blood) may result in the following penalties:

  • Fines: €500 for first offense; €1000 if second offense; €1500 if third offense
  • Driving Ban: One-month suspension of driving privileges; Three months for second and succeeding offenses.
  • Penalty points: Two points

BAC Level 0.11% and Above 

Having a BAC level of 0.11% (1.1 grams of alcohol per liter of blood) may lead to the following consequences:

  • Fines: Paying fines or jail sentence
  • Driving Ban: Suspension of driving privileges depending on driving history and severity of the case.
  • Penalty points: Three points

When Can You Drink and Drive in Germany?

Several factors, including gender, can affect a person’s BAC levels. Research indicates that men and women have different BAC thresholds due to the significant influence of gender.

Men possess substantially higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes, which aid in alcohol metabolism and allow men to absorb alcohol more quickly than women.

While the guidelines presented below may help estimate the alcohol you can consume before driving in Germany, it’s important to note that individuals may react to alcohol differently. 

Therefore, the information below is only a rough estimate and may not be suitable for everyone.

How Many Bottles of Beer Can You Drink and Drive in Germany?

Drinking beer and driving in Germany

Aside from gender, weight also plays a role in blood alcohol levels. BAC charts show people with lower body weights have higher BAC levels.

For instance, a man weighing 72 kilograms (160 pounds) who consumes a 350 ml (12-ounce) beer may have a BAC of 0.02%.

A woman of the same weight and drinking the same amount of beer, on the other hand, may have a BAC of 0.03%, illustrating the gender-related influence on alcohol metabolism.

Based on this example, limiting beer consumption to one or two bottles is preferable if you expect to drive afterward.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Drink and Drive in Germany?

It’s helpful to know that an average wine glass (142 milliliters/5 ounces)contains 12% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Based on the example above, a male weighing 72 kilos (160 pounds) who drinks one glass of wine could have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02%.

It’s important to consider that stress, an empty stomach, and drug use can also affect BAC levels. 

Therefore, limiting wine consumption to one or two glasses is advisable.

How Many Whiskey or Vodka Shots Can You Drink and Drive in Germany?

Distilled alcoholic beverages such as vodka and whiskey typically have an ABV of 40%.

For instance, a man weighing 72 kilograms (160 pounds) can attain a BAC of 0.02% after consuming one shot of either drink.

However, for a woman of the same weight and alcohol consumption, the BAC can reach 0.03%, reflecting the impact of gender on alcohol metabolism. 

Again, these are only estimated BAC levels, and various factors can influence BAC to increase or decrease.

Limiting consumption to one or two shots if planning to drive after consuming whiskey or vodka is recommended.

Sticking to Drink and Drive Laws in Germany

Driving while intoxicated poses a significant risk. Intoxication can impair a driver’s control over themselves and their vehicle, creating danger for the driver and others on the road. Drivers must recognize the dangers of drunk driving and take all necessary precautions to avoid it.

Knowing your BAC level and driving ability is imperative, even if you only consumed a modest amount of alcohol. Under such circumstances, opting for alternative transportation is strongly recommended instead of operating a vehicle.

If you need to drive after drinking, you must ensure you are not impaired. One way to ensure this is by using a certified alcohol breathalyzer to measure your blood alcohol level before driving. This simple step can help keep you and others safe on the road.

For the most up-to-date information on drunk driving laws, visit the ETSC’s official website.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.