A new report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) shows that more than 5,000 deaths per year in the European Union (EU) are still caused by drunk-driving, and calls for increased enforcement and new rehabilitation measures.
Two of the main recommendations from the ETSC report are that the EU should require alcohol interlocks to be fitted in all new professional vehicles and retrofitted to cars used by repeat drunk-driving offenders, with member states urged to increase enforcement and introduce rehabilitation programs for drunk-driving offenders. Alcohol interlocks are in-car breath testing devices that prevent the vehicle from being started if the driver is over the limit. In a review of vehicle safety regulation by the European Commission expected in May, ETSC is calling for a standard electronic interface to be fitted to all new cars to make installation of an interlock easier. ETSC also says the devices should be fitted as standard on all professional vehicles.
In a major road safety package announced last month, the French government said all repeat drunk-driving offenders would be required to install an interlock. All coaches in France are already required to have the devices installed.
In September last year, Austria launched a national rehabilitation program for drink-drivers that offers them the option to install an interlock in order to get back behind the wheel before the full term of a driving ban has expired. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have also introduced similar programs, as have the majority of USA states. ETSC says the programs have proven to be one of the most effective measures for tackling repeat drunk-driving offences and should be extended across the EU.
The report also highlights the progress made by EU countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Denmark, where fatalities attributed to drunk-driving have been dropping faster than other road deaths. In Estonia, drunk-driving deaths dropped by 90% over the last decade, due in part to the highest level of roadside breath tests in the EU and introduction of a near-zero-tolerance limit for all drivers.
“High levels of enforcement are critical to solving Europe’s drunk-driving problem. And for those drivers who carry on getting behind the wheel after drinking, alcohol interlocks are an effective way of getting people rehabilitated,” explained Antonio Avenoso, executive director of ETSC. “It’s also crucial that professional carrying goods or passengers must never be allowed to get behind the wheel when they are over the limit. Many fleets across Europe are already using interlock devices; it’s time they were made a standard feature.”