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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Driver has 18 times legal alcohol limit

The Associated Press

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuanian police were so astonished by a breath test that registered 18 times the legal alcohol limit, they thought their device must be broken.

It wasn't.

Police said Tuesday that 41-year-old Vidmantas Sungaila registered 7.27 grams per liter of alcohol in his blood repeatedly on different devices after he was pulled over Saturday for driving his truck down the center of a two-lane highway 60 miles from the capital, Vilnius.

Lithuania's legal limit is 0.4 grams per liter, or 0.04 grams per 100 milliliters. Washington state's legal limit is 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters. That means Sungaila's blood alcohol content was nine times the legal limit in Washington and most other U.S. states.

"This guy should have been lying dead, but he was still driving. It must be an unofficial national record," Saulius Skvernelis, director of the national-police traffic-control service, told the AP. "He was of high spirits and grinning the whole time he was questioned."

Medical experts say anything above 3.5 grams per liter of alcohol in the blood is lethal for most people.

"A person this intoxicated should be in an intensive-care unit, not behind the wheel," said Tautvydas Zikaras, head of the dependence-illness center in the country's second-largest city, Kaunas. Zikaras said he had never heard or read of someone being so drunk.

Sungaila, who was slapped with a $1,110 fine and the loss of his license for up to three years, told police he had been drinking the night before and tried to freshen up by downing a pint of beer for breakfast.

Lithuania has one of the worst road-safety records in the European Union. Last year, 760 people died in traffic accidents in this country of 3.5 million residents. Most were alcohol-related.

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