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Hamburg prepares for diesel driving ban with signs warning motorists

The city of Hamburg this week put up signs on its streets warning motorists of diesel restricted zones - an indication to residents that they are taking the diesel driving bans seriously.

Hamburg prepares for diesel driving ban with signs warning motorists
A new sign that bars trucks below the Euro 6 emissions standard from entering Stresemannstrasse in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Limited diesel driving bans were introduced for two busy roads in the Hanseatic city after a top court in February ruled that German cities could impose the bans to combat air pollution.

Almost immediately after the verdict, the port city became the first to announce plans for a driving ban on Max-Brauer-Allee and Stresemannstrasse in the Altona district from late April.

SEE ALSO: Here's how you could be affected by diesel bans in German cities

The city subsequently made signs which warn people of diesel restricted zones and possible alternative routes. This week the signs started to make an appearance in the Altona district.

The ban in Max-Brauer-Allee applies to all vehicles that do not meet the Euro 6 emissions standard, while the ban in Stresemannstrasse only bars trucks which are below the Euro 6 standard.

Excluded from the driving ban are residents and their visitors, as well as ambulances, garbage trucks and delivery vehicles.

Nonetheless, the ban has not officially started and an exact start date has not yet been set, reports Spiegel Online.

The Hamburg Ministry of the Environment and Energy (BUE) expects the ban in Hamburg to be implemented the week after next.

Photo: DPA

Motorists in breach of the ban can expect to cough up fines of €25 for cars and €75 for trucks.

There are no plans for further diesel driving bans in Hamburg, according to the BUE.

But when the Hanseatic’s city’s bans are officially put in place, it will be the first German city to implement diesel driving bans, meaning that other cities could follow.

As the ruling obligates Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to consider driving bans, the two smog-clogged state capitals of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf must seek to control air pollution limits as quickly as possible.

Stuttgart expects initial diesel driving bans to be implemented at the end of the year.

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DRIVING

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.

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