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Drink-driving: What is the drink drive limit?

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Apart from speeding, driving while under the influence of alcohol is the most common reason for violating road traffic laws. In 2018, Swiss road traffic offices revoked a total of 13,090 driver licenses for that reason. 

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    Simon Grabher

    Simon Grabher is a legal expert at AXA-ARAG and is mainly concerned with the topics of criminal and traffic law.

Breath alcohol test

So many a wine festival or trip to the fair may end with a nasty surprise if the police are standing at the side of the road, flag you down with a signaling disc and make you undergo a routine breath test (Art. 55 (1) Road Traffic Act, SVG). They do not need to have any real suspicion, and you incur a fine if you refuse to take the test (Art. 91a SVG).

A breath test is normally sufficient to determine whether you are fit to drive. In some cases, a blood test is also required to secure criminal evidence. 

Breath or blood alcohol tests

Breath tests determine the alcohol content in milligrams per liter (mg/l) of breath, whereas blood alcohol tests measure the blood alcohol content in weight per thousand (‰). Legally, the mg/l figure is equivalent to double the ‰ value. According to the Federal Assembly’s relevant ordinance, 0.25 mg/l blood alcohol, for example, is legally equivalent to 0.5 ‰ blood alcohol.

In essence: The higher the per thousand measurement, the longer you will be without your license.

You can expect these consequences

For 0.5 – 0,79 per thousand:

An fine (Art. 91 (1) SVG) which is normally in the higher three-digit range. Also a warning from the Road Traffic Office, provided that, apart from being drunk, you have not violated any other traffic regulation or been prosecuted on one occasion by the Road Traffic Office in the last two years. If you have, you will lose your driver license for at least one month (Art. 16a and 16b SVG).

On top of this are administrative fees and the cost of any blood alcohol tests, all of which may even come to more than the actual fine.

For 0.8 – 1.59 per thousand

A custodial sentence of up to three years or a fine (Art. 91 (2) SVG). In fact, most first offenders receive a conditional fine linked to an unconditional fine. For relatively low per thousand measurements and income levels, most fines run into four figures. But a criminal record is always imposed,

and offenders lose their driver license for at least three months. If you have already committed frequent traffic offenses, the minimum period for losing your license can increase dramatically under the Road Traffic Act (Art. 16c SVG).

There are also fees and charges for any blood alcohol measurements.

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From 1.6 per thousand

Things get very unpleasant above this level. As well as the consequences for 0.8 – 1.59 per thousand measurements, you will be subject by law to a driving aptitude assessment (Art. 15d (1) letter a SVG) and your driver license will be revoked as a precautionary measure (Art. 30 Ordinance governing the admission of persons and vehicles to road circulation, VZV).

In the driving aptitude assessment, a transport medical specialist will check whether you have a problem with alcohol abuse or even suffer from addiction. You will have to prove that you have abstained from drinking any alcohol over several months, mainly by providing hair samples. Only when the transport medical specialist gives a positive driving suitability opinion will the Road Traffic Office return your driver license to you, normally on condition that you continue abstaining from drinking alcohol.

On top of drinking checks which can sometimes continue for years, the cost of tests can run into several thousand francs which you have to meet as the perpetrator.

If you have to undergo a driver suitability test, you will be teetotal for a long time. On top of drinking checks which can sometimes continue for years, the cost of tests can run into several thousand francs.

Consequences in terms of legal liability

You also have to bear the consequences in terms of legal liability if you cause an accident involving third-party damage because you were drunk. Although your motor liability insurance does provide benefits to the injured party or parties, you are also responsible at least proportionately as policyholder (Art. 65 (3) SVG).


The risk of driving while under the influence of alcohol isn’t worth it. If you drink beyond your thirst level, it would be best for you to walk home, get a taxi or go by public transport. Otherwise it can quickly cost you thousands of francs, not to mention the hassle with your driver license.

You can find out more information on ordinary fines and offenses in criminal and administrative proceedings by visiting our free legal blog on 

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