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ETSC calls for zero tolerance drink-driving limit

drink and car keys

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) says that the EU should introduce a zero-tolerance drink-driving limit in 2020.

It wants the new lower limit introduced as part of a package of measures to help prevent up to 5,000 alcohol-linked road deaths every year.

The EU recently set a target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road by half by 2030. A quarter of the 25,000 EU road deaths each year are likely to be linked to alcohol, according to European Commission estimates. Therefore more progress on tackling drink driving is essential to reaching the overall target, says ETSC.

Ellen Townsend, policy director of ETSC said: “Almost 70 years since the first scientific evidence was published on the link between drink-driving and road deaths – it is impossible to accept that thousands of families are still being ripped apart every year in the EU because of it. 

“In 2020, we want to see the EU and Member States, coming up with a vision to end drink-driving once and for all with a combination of zero-tolerance limits, a big step-up in enforcement and wider use of technology such as mandatory use of alcohol interlocks in buses, lorries and vans.”   

Around 2,654 people were officially recorded killed in alcohol-related collisions in 23 EU countries in 2018, according to a new ETSC report. But the true figures are likely to be significantly higher due to underreporting and problems with data collection, it says.

Currently only seven out of 28 EU countries have a standard Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.2 g/l or below; 0.1 and 0.2 are effectively equivalent to zero tolerance, while still allowing for  consumption of certain medicines, or drinks marketed as alcohol free. 

Nineteen have a limit of 0.5, while Lithuania has 0.4. The UK currently has the highest standard limit of 0.8, though Scotland has set a lower limit of 0.5. 

Many countries also set lower limits for professional and/or novice drivers.

ETSC is also calling on the EU to require the fitment of alcohol interlock devices in professional vehicles such as lorries, coaches and vans as well as requiring their use by recidivist drink-driving offenders as well as first time high-level offenders.    

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France and Sweden are among the countries that offer alcohol interlock offender programmes today, while France and Finland have legislated the use of alcohol interlocks for some categories of professional vehicles such as school buses.

New EU legislation agreed earlier this year will require all new vehicles from 2022 to be capable of being fitted with an alcohol interlock via a standard interface between the vehicle and the device. 

ETSC is also calling on EU member states to improve data collection of alcohol-related deaths by, for example, mandating systematic alcohol testing of all road users involved in a collision with injury. 

Member states also need to step up enforcement and introduce national targets for the number of roadside checks, according to ETSC. 

Thirteen EU countries are cutting drink-driving deaths at a faster rate than overall declines in road deaths, according to the new research. In contrast, the UK, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Sweden and Slovakia all appear to be tackling drink-driving at a slower rate than the overall progress.  

Download the new report at: http://etsc.eu/drink-driving-2019

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  • Peter - 11/12/2019 11:48

    As a first step, the UK should follow Scotland's lead and reduce the drink-driving limited to 0.5 immediately. There's little justification for keeping it at the highest level in Europe.

  • Edward Handley - 12/12/2019 12:26

    Calls for zero tolerance or a zero limit are always a great headline grabber, but in practice are usually a complete waste of effort and will achieve almost nothing at huge expense and incovenience. A zero alcohol limits is not practical, because alcohol is a natural substance which can be found in fresh fruit and a wide rang of foods. Even moderate drinking will leave a driver with low levels of residual alcohol the following morning, but far below the level of any impairment. Do ETSC really want to ban drivers from drinking for at least 24 hours before driving like airline pilots? That's what a zero, or near zero limit, would mean. There is already a shortage of professional LGV and PCV drivers across Europe, so zero tolerance would just make it a lot worse! I do not condone drinking and driving, but I don't want to see a situation where a driver is not allowed a single drink in the evening, particularly s it would have no effect on the number of people killed and injured in drink drive collisions. The research proves this: The lower limit imposed in Scotland has not reduced the number of drink-drive crashes, because the problem is not drivers between 50 and 80 mg in their blood (22 - 35 micrograms in breath), the problem is the drivers who are twice the current legal limit, who know they are well over, and don't care. If you lower the limit they still won't care - you just penalise responsible drivers.

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