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A few days ago, I dug out my DVD set of the "Pole to Pole" travelog that Michael Palin did in 91.

Pole to Pole is an eight-part television documentary travel series made for the BBC, and first broadcast on BBC1 in 1992. The presenter is Michael Palin, this being the second of Palin's major journeys for the BBC. The first was Around the World in 80 Days, a 7-part series first broadcast on BBC One in 1989, and the third was Full Circle with Michael Palin, a 10-part series first broadcast on BBC One in 1997.

The trip from the North Pole to the South Pole went via Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, parts of Europe, and through the heart of Africa. The intention was to follow the 30 degree east line of longitude, which would cover the most land. A last-minute diversion to Chile included South America in the series. Using aircraft as little as possible, the whole trip lasted 5½ months.

While driving in Norway, Palin talked with a Norwegian about drunk driving. Seems that the laws in Norway are very strict, including a couple weeks in jail. There are so many people sentenced to jail time that, at that time, there was a two year waiting list to do the jail time.

So, I looked up the current law in Norway.

To drink or not to drink: Norwegian versus American DUI laws

Here (Norway) there is an almost zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in part because the accepted blood alcohol level (0.2% or .02) is so low and the penalties high. That is not to say Norwegians drink less than Americans, in fact some might argue that Norwegians drink more, but Norwegians are more likely to call a cab or have a designated driver.

If you look at the table, you’ll see that in Norway if you have a blood alcohol content of .02-.05 you can lose your license for up to one year and receive a fine equal to one month’s salary (if your level is over .05 you will almost always pay at least Kr 10,000—or $1,250 at the exchange rate of 1 USD = 8 NOK). As your blood alcohol level rises, it takes longer to get your license back and your risk of jail time increases.

Here in Michigan, at least, license suspension means nothing. The "news" is constantly reporting on drunk drivers that have caused an accident, and who have had their license suspended 6-8 times or more for DUI in the past. I bet those perps did not forego driving a single day while their license was suspended.

Then there is the probability of being caught at all. This map shows the number of DUI cases per 1,000 residents for each county in Michigan, with the most populous counties broken down by city.

The map shows a wide range of case rates, but is this due to varying tolerance among departments, or departments so undermanned that they don't have time to look for drunks?

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