Which countries have the strictest road rules?

James McCay

Oct 25, 2023

Road rules are designed to help keep people safe as they travel around, while also ensuring a steady and organised flow of traffic. It helps keep things organised and prevents chaos and mayhem on the streets.

However, not all countries implement such road rules equally.

As car insurance experts, we were interested in trying to find which country had the ‘strictest’ road rules. We took a look at 17 countries across the world, focusing on blood alcohol limits, speed limits, mobile phone restrictions and seatbelt requirements.

Join us as we take a look at the data.

Note: this isn’t a measure of how strict Police and Governments are in terms of fines and enforcement, but how much room drivers have before they break the law.

The table below shows the data and indexed score for all 17 countries.

Strict road rules index

CountryBlood alcohol limit (BAC)Highway speed limit (km/h)Residential speed limit (km/h)Rural speed limit (km/h)Hands-free mobile phone use allowed?Seatbelt requirementsIndex score
France0.051305080NoMandatory (with exemptions)5.94
Colombia0.021005080YesRequired but not enforced5.84
Denmark0.051305080Yes with restrictionsMandatory (with exemptions)5.84
New Zealand0.0510050100YesMandatory5.63
Germany0.0510050100YesMandatory (with exemptions)4.79
Canada0.0412030100YesMandatory (with exemptions)4.69
Brazil0.001206080YesRequired but not enforced4.38
Hungary0.001305090YesMandatory (with exemptions)4.38
Spain0.0512050100YesMandatory (with exemptions)4.07
South Africa0.0512060100YesMandatory (with exemptions)3.13

Other interesting road rules from across the world

  • On the Autobahn in Germany there is no speed limit for the majority of the highway, though it is recommended to drive at 130km/h.3
  • In Canada, you don’t need to wear a seatbelt when reversing.4
  • In Australia, there are some roads in the Northern Territory with a speed limit of 130km/h.5
  • Spain only banned holding a mobile phone in the hand while driving in 2022.6

America ranked second-least strict

The USA (3.54) was the second-least strict, following behind South Africa (3.13) but ahead of Chile (4.06). The United States were ranked so low due to having the highest blood alcohol limit of 0.08BAC (the same amount as the UK and Mexico), and some high-speed limits for highways and country roads. Chile was ranked slightly stricter than the USA due to having a lower alcohol limit (0.03BAC vs 0.08BAC in America), and a slightly lower rural road speed limit.

South Africa was considered the least strict country on the index, largely based on having higher speed limits for highways, residential areas and rural roads, despite having lower BAC limits than the US. Also, while seatbelts are mandatory for drivers and passengers, there were more exemptions (such as making regular stops for deliveries or driving a minivan that weighed less than 2.5tonnes).7

How does Australia fare?

Australia was ranked as the seventh-strictest country for road rules (with an index score of 5.32), sitting close to the middle of our ranking. Australia was ranked just behind New Zealand but ahead of Germany in terms of strictness. Australia’s speed limits are not as high as many countries on the list but are still far from the lowest. Also, there were far fewer seatbelt exemptions for drivers than many other countries on the list.

Blood alcohol limits in Australia are also in the middle of the pack, at 0.05BAC, and hands-free use of a mobile phone for calls, navigation and music is allowed, which was the case for almost all countries on the list bar Denmark and France.

New Zealand is considered stricter for road rules than Australia by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of highway speed limits are capped at 100km/h (with a few exceptions), while 110km/h is more common across most of Australia.

How disobeying the road rules can impact your car insurance

Compare the Market’s General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor, notes that drivers who don’t follow their country’s road rules may risk their car insurance premiums increasing.

“Not only do you risk seriously hurting yourself and others, getting fined or losing points on your licence, you may find that your car insurance policy becomes more expensive if you break the rules or engage in dangerous driving habits,” Taylor says.

“Car insurance companies take a number of factors into account when pricing policies, and your driving history is one of them. A history of traffic violations may cause your insurer to increase your premiums, or they may decide to not to renew your policy.

“It’s also important to be honest and accurately disclose your info when buying car insurance in the first place. If you don’t and get caught out later, it could affect the outcome of a claim,” Taylor explains.

“You should always read the Product Disclosure Statement before you buy for details about your duties to not misrepresent, what you’re covered for and what you won’t be covered for.”


To calculate the index, we gathered data for 17 countries, focusing on blood alcohol limits, highway speed limits, residential speed limits and rural speed limits, mobile phone restrictions and seatbelt laws. For each of these six scores, all 17 countries were given a score between 0 and 10, based on their performance in relation to each other.

For mobile phones, restrictions were given a score out of five based on the number of restrictions. These were: whether hands-free is allowed, the use of GPS navigation, music, holding in the hand and using other functions (texting, games, videos etc). If a country had no restrictions they received a score of zero, and if none were allowed the nation received a score of five (most countries ban holding phones in the hand and using other functions while driving, so scored two out of five).

For seatbelt scores, countries were given a score out of three. If seatbelts were not mandatory, a country would score zero. If they were required but not enforced, a country scored one. If seatbelts where mandatory but had exemptions, nations would score two. Nations with mandatory seatbelts with no (or very few) exemptions scored three.

The metrics were scored using the following methods:

  • Blood alcohol limit: the limit on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving. A lower limit received a higher score out of 10.
  • Highway speed limit: the speed limit on highways and motorways (two or more lane carriageways) unless otherwise signed. A lower speed limit received a higher score out of 10.
  • Residential speed limit: the speed limit in built up urban or residential areas unless otherwise signed. A lower speed limit received a higher score out of 10.
  • Rural speed limit: the speed limit on non-residential, non-highway roads (typically two-way countryside roads) unless otherwise signed. A lower speed limit received a higher score out of 10.
  • Mobile phone restrictions: the number of restricted uses of a mobile phone for drivers in a vehicle using the aforementioned scoring system. A higher number of restrictions received a higher score out of five.
  • Seatbelt requirements: the requirement for seatbelts in a country using the aforementioned scoring system. A higher mandate received a higher score out of three.

N.B. Some laws may change based on state, territory or province and may change in the future.

This article doesn’t take into account fines and demerit points, as these are issued by state Police and differ based on the type of offence, as well as other factors.


Sources for index:

Speed limit sourcesMobile phone restriction sourcesSeatbelt requirement sources
New ZealandNew ZealandNew Zealand
South AfricaSouth AfricaSouth Africa

Other sources:

  1. Getting around by car. Visitnorway.com, Innovation Norway. 2023.
  2. Highway code. French Road Safety Observatory. 2023.
  3. Going abroad – Germany. European Commission. 2023.
  4. Seatbelt safety. Ministry of Transportation, Ontario. 2023.
  5. Speed limits. Northern Territory Government. 2023.
  6. Almost half of drivers in Spain admit that they use their mobile phone at the wheel. A. Noguerol, Southern Daily. 2022.
  7. South African Law on Wearing of Seatbelts. Arrive Alive. 2023.