Drinking and Driving Law in Brazil

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On June 19, 2008, Brazil passed a zero tolerance law for drivers with any measurable content of alcohol in their blood.

Law 11.705 was proposed by the Brazilian Congress and passed by President Luiz Inácio da Silva. The law was proposed in view of studies which show that when it comes to driving under the influence, there is no such thing as a secure level of alcohol content in the blood.

Law 11.705 cancels the previous law, which only determined penalties past a .06 BAC (blood alcohol content) level. Instead of only targeting drunk driving, Law 11.075 also targets impaired driving.

Valid all over the Brazilian territory, the law also forbids the sale of alcoholic drinks at businesses along the rural stretches of federal roads.

Traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers are one of the risks of driving in Brazil. A study conducted in Brazil by UNIAD, a center of studies about alcohol and drugs, revealed that 30% of drivers had alcohol in their blood on weekends.

Alcohol Limits

Law 11.705, commonly referred to as Lei Seca, or Dry Law, determines that drivers caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.2 grams of alcohol per liter of blood (or .02 BAC level) - the equivalent to a can of beer or a glass of wine - must pay a R$ 957 fine (about $600 at the time of this writing) and have their right to drive suspended for a year.

According to Brazilian officials, the .02 BAC level was established to allow for variation in the breathalyzer. The index is being disputed by opponents of the law because allegedly, eating three liqueur bonbons or rinsing with mouthwash would show on the breathalyzer.

However, specialists and officials point to the fact that those elements would only show on the breathalyzer immediately after use or ingestion. They highlight the importance of observation by trained officers in determining exceptions.

Drivers caught with over 0.6 grams of alcohol per liter of blood (.06 BAC level) will be arrested and may serve terms of six months to three years, with bail set at values between R$ 300 and R$ 1,200.

Drivers may refuse to take the breathalyzer test. However, the officer in charge may write a ticket at the same value as the 0.6- gram or request a clinical exam at a local hospital. Drivers who refuse to comply may be arrested for disobedience.

A Drop in Traffic-Caused Deaths

Naturally, Brazil's Dry Law is the source of heated debate, but surveys carried out in different Brazilian cities have shown approval of the new law. Hard evidence shows that traffic-related deaths dropped since the law was passed. News portal Folha Online reported a drop of 57% in traffic-related deaths in São Paulo after a blitz for enforcement of the Dry Law.

For Safer Traffic in Brazil

In a statement in support of Law 11.705,  Abramet - the Brazilian Association of Traffic Medicine - highlighted the importance of the zero tolerance policy as a way to preserve lives. According to Abramet, 35,000 people die in Brazil every year due to traffic accidents.

In a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio da Silva, the director of the Pan American Health Organization in Brazil, Mirta Roses Periago, praised Law 11.705 as a model for changes in Brazil and in all countries of the Americas, where, in her words, "driving under the influence of alcohol has become a true public health problem."

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