EXPLAINER: How much can I drink in Spain before being over the legal driving limit?

WE may be blessed to live in the country with the highest number of bars per capita in the known world,  but it brings with it an added risk: drink driving.

And while it’s always advisable to drive with a zero alcohol level on Spain’s roads, sometimes the circumstances and needs of the Spanish lifestyle demand that we get behind the wheel after sipping a beer.

Thankfully, the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) has provided insights into the amount of alcohol that could land you in trouble during a roadside check.

And it might make for sobering reading.

For men of average size and weight, approximately one pint or two cañas (1.5 units) of beer will almost definitely yield a positive result.

In the case of women, imbibing just one-third of a 330ml beer can lead to a positive breathalyser reading.

The DGT stipulates that a reading of 0.25 mg/l of alcohol in aspirated air, equivalent to 0.5 grams per litre of blood, is the legal limit for driving in Spain. 

However, for professional drivers and novice drivers, the limit is stricter, set at 0.15 mg/l of alcohol in aspirated air. 

One 330ml beer will likely produce 0.3 grams of alcohol per litre of blood in a man who weighs 70kg, and 0.2 in a man carrying 80kg.

And three of them (equivalent to one litre of beer) will produce a test result of 0.7-0.8, which qualifies as a criminal offence.

It’s essential to note that alcohol can be detected in the bloodstream within just five minutes of consumption. 

However, it typically peaks between 30 and 90 minutes after ingestion. 

If you’ve consumed around 1g/l of alcohol, it may take between 6 and 10 hours to register a negative result in a test. 

Therefore, if you’ve been drinking and only have 5 hours of sleep before getting behind the wheel, it’s best not to drive.

If you’re caught with a positive reading of 0.25 mg/l in a breathalyser test, the DGT will impose a €500 fine and the loss of four points from your driving licence, provided you don’t exceed 0.50 mg/l.

Exceeding the 0.50 mg/l limit but staying below 0.60 mg/l will result in a €1,000 fine and the deduction of 6 points from your licence. 

Going over 0.60 mg/l constitutes a criminal offence, leading to a possible prison sentence of three to six months, in addition to a €1,000 fine and a six-point deduction.

In 2022, 274 drivers appeared in court in Spain due to failing a breathalyser test, consuming a narcotic substance, or refusing to be tested at all – considered a criminal offence.


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