Wednesday, December 11, 2019

European Call to Ban Drink Driving with Alcolocks Mandatory on HGVs and Coaches

As Christmas Looms Alcohol Will Blight Celebrations for Many
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – At this time of year the scourge of drink driving is very much in the front of many people's minds, and sadly some of those will be remembering Christmas for all the wrong reasons, having lost a loved one to a drink driving incident. Now the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) is calling for the European Union to introduce a zero-tolerance drink-driving limit in 2020.

ETSC has authored a new report into the problem and says it is for the EU to introduce a package of measures to help prevent up to 5,000 alcohol-linked road deaths every year. This represents around 25% of the 25,000 EU road deaths each year which are likely to be linked to alcohol, according to European Commission estimates. The EU itself has recently set a target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road by half by 2030.

Around 2,654 people were officially recorded killed in alcohol-related collisions in 23 EU countries in 2018, according to the new ETSC report. But it claims the true figures are likely to be significantly higher due to underreporting and problems with data collection. Unsurprisingly the option of alcohol ignition locking devices appears high on the agenda for the ETSC, something we ourselves have been advocating for over a decade.

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

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. 19 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 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.

13 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.

Photo: Drink has been a major factor in many horrific accidents.