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[World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe] Drink–driving: still a deadly seasonal cocktail. (15 Dec 2011)

URL: http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topic...

Road accidents usually increase during the winter holiday season, owing to higher levels of drinking. In general, crashes and deaths from drink–driving have declined in most European countries, although considerable room for improvement remains.

Every year, about 120 000 people die and 2.4 million are injured on the roads in the WHO European Region. Estimates of the percentage of road-traffic deaths attributable to alcohol vary widely between countries. According to the data available, 13 countries in the Region report this share to be 20% or more (up to 48%), and 9 report figures of 10–20%. The information is incomplete; only 82% of countries provide data on crashes due to alcohol.
Many young drivers involved in crashes are under the influence of alcohol. At any blood alcohol concentration, drivers aged 16–20 years are three times more likely to crash than drivers older than 30. Road-traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in people aged 5–29 years in the WHO European Region.
Although young people are at the greatest relative risk of having a drink–driving accident, in absolute terms drink–driving and related crashes and deaths are more common among middle-aged people.
Legislation and enforcement across Europe
All countries in the Region have legislation that prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol. Evidence suggests that reducing the legal limit on blood alcohol concentration (BAC) closer to 0.2 g/l, as recommended by WHO, can save more lives. Three countries have not set a BAC limit, however, and two (Malta and the United Kingdom) have a legal limit of 0.8 g/l. Despite the vulnerability of young drivers, less than half of countries across the Region have set a BAC limit for young and novice drivers of ≤0.2 g/l.
Although all countries across the Region have national policies on drink–driving, enforcement remains a critical issue. Two thirds of countries indicate that the enforcement of their legislation is suboptimal. Some also report that the penalties are not severe enough to deter drink–driving.
Effective measures for enforcement include:
  • high-visibility random breath testing;
  • penalties with severe personal consequences, such as on-the-spot fines, driving-licence penalty points and, as appropriate, licence suspension;
  • high-profile campaigns to raise public awareness of the measures and penalties;
  • brief counselling by doctors on harmful alcohol use and safe drinking;
  • legislation on and enforcement of measures to discourage young people from buying alcohol; and
  • fiscal measures to increase the cost of alcohol.
Key options for policy action
  • Reduce the legal BAC level for drinking and driving for novice and professional drivers to 0.2 g/l or less. For all drivers, evidence suggests that more lives can be saved by reducing it closer to 0.2 g/l.
  • Strengthen enforcement, either through increased random breath-testing or measures to increase drink–drivers’ fear of being caught. Such people need to know that they run a real risk of being stopped and breath-tested at any time.
Ultimately, separating drinking from driving should become the cultural norm.
Item Type:News
Source:World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe
Date:15 December 2011
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Substance related societal (social) problems > Alcohol / drinking and driving
MM-MO Crime and law > Transportation safety laws (driving) > Substance use driving laws
VA Geographic area > Europe

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