Thursday, September 25, 2014

Drunk Drivers

Random traffic stops by the police in Norway are common.  They set up road blocks and check every car that passes by for things like bald tires and other safety issues, unbelted passengers, people talking on cell phones and drunk drivers.  It’s the opposite of America, where police need a reason to pull someone over.

Norwegian officials don’t mess around when it comes to driving drunk.  They have zero tolerance for it and the consequences are so severe, very few people ever do it.
Norway has the strictest laws in Europe for drunk driving.  The legal limit is 0.01%, which isn’t much.  A spoonful of cough syrup might push one into the illegal zone.

Whenever we have been to a dinner party, there is always a designated driver and that person won’t even touch their lips to alcohol the entire evening.  When we’ve been out to a restaurant and everyone’s had a glass of wine, we either take a taxi home or have someone come get us.  Many will walk an hour home even if they’ve had just one drink, because no one wants to run the risk of getting caught.  There is mandatory jail time involved plus loss of driver’s license and a huge fine - which is on a sliding scale and is the equivalent to a month and a half’s salary times how many points over 0.01% a person is.

There is no plea bargaining or getting a good lawyer to help out in drunk driving cases, so if a person gets caught, they’re guilty.  The consequences are swift and steep.  America has a thing or two to learn in that regard.

It seems the foreigners, especially those from Eastern Europe, have yet to take the drunk driving laws in Norway as seriously as the locals, as their jails are packed with immigrants who’ve been caught driving drunk.

The Norwegian police also set up roadside blocks early Monday morning to check people going to work.  If someone has been drinking over the weekend, there might be residual alcohol in their system come Monday morning, so many folks get caught then.

One guy I read about, the son of a rich shipbuilder, got caught in a random road side stop with a 0.09% alcohol level.  He had to pay about $130,000 for his drunk driving ticket, spend three weeks in jail and he lost his license for over two years.  When stuff like that makes the headlines, people understand that zero tolerance means zero tolerance no matter who you are.  If he gets caught driving drunk again within five years, he’ll lose his license for life.  They don’t mess around.

I also read about a woman that got caught in a random stop with alcohol on her breath.  She spent thirty days in prison where they kept her busy chopping wood, she lost her license for three years and had to go to rehab.  Her fine was the equivalent of about $78,000.  Her blood alcohol level was 0.07%, which in Washington State, isn’t even illegal.

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