German gov. under fire for drunk-driving quip

/ Source: The Associated Press

The governor of Bavaria said Tuesday that some people could safely drive after drinking 2 liters (4.2 pints, 67 1/2 ounces) of beer, drawing the ire of political opponents and police four days before Oktoberfest in the beer-loving German state.

Gov. Guenther Beckstein told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio that, "if one drinks the two liters over six or seven hours at the Oktoberfest, it is still possible" to drive. But, he added, "of course not if you drink the two liters in two hours."

Police officers carrying out alcohol tests around Munich's annual celebration of beer, which runs through Oct. 5, "will have to listen to people saying that Beckstein has allowed two liters of beer," said Harald Schneider, the head of the national police union's Bavarian branch.

Germany's national blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.05 percent.

Thomas Gilg, a medical professor at the University of Munich, said a man weighing 198 pounds, or 90 kilos, would probably have a 0.047 percent blood-alcohol content after drinking two liters of strong festival beer over six hours — just short of the limit — though the figure could rise as high as 0.077 percent.

However, he said, a man weighing 154 pounds, or 70 kilos, would probably end up with a blood-alcohol content of between 0.09 and 0.12 percent.

Beckstein's Christian Social Union is part of the German federal government, whose drug czar advocates a blood alcohol limit of zero for all drivers.

Beckstein said he believed that only a zero limit for newly qualified drivers — imposed last year — is "absolutely necessary."

Beckstein's challenger from the center-left Social Democrats in an Sept. 28 state election, Franz Maget, said it was "irresponsible how Beckstein is playing down driving under the influence of alcohol."

Beckstein's CSU has dominated Bavaria for decades and is the overwhelming favorite in the election. However, opponents hope to deprive it of a majority in the state parliament after a lackluster start for its new leadership, which took over last year.