Tougher Drunk Driving Curbs Go into Force

  • By Lee Dong-hwi

    June 24, 2019 12:25

    People caught driving after even one drink will face punishment as tougher regulations come into force Tuesday.

    The new regulations slash the permissible blood alcohol level from 0.05 to 0.03 percent, according to the National Police Agency on Sunday, while the level for license cancellation is bolstered from 0.1 to 0.08 percent.

    Just one shot of soju can bring an adult's blood alcohol level to 0.03 percent. That means even people who drank heavily the night before and have traces of alcohol left in the morning could be nabbed for driving under the influence.

    If an adult male weighing 60 kg drinks two bottles of soju until midnight, that yields a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent. Even if he sleeps for six hours, the blood-alcohol content remains at 0.04 percent at a decline by 0.015 percent an hour.

    Some 5,684 accidents involving drunk drivers have been recorded from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. over the last three years.

    Punishment is also getting heavier. Until now, the lightest punishment for drunk drivers was up to six months behind bars or a maximum W3 million fine (US$1=W1,165). But now that goes up to one year in jail or a W5 million fine.

    Drunk drivers caught with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.2 percent face up to five years behind bars and a maximum W20 million fine, up from the current three or W10 million. The previous three-strike limit before a driver's license is canceled has been toughened to two strikes.

    The new standards are tough even on a global scale. In the U.S. and U.K, which have the weakest regulations, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is the limit, compared to 0.05 percent in Germany, France and Switzerland. Japan is the same as Korea at 0.03 percent, while the level in China and Sweden is 0.02 percent. 

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