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EU too slow on fight against drink driving

A new study has shown that only nine EU states have managed to reduce the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers at a satisfactory pace.

Hungarian police had an intensive presence during Easter Holiday on Hungarian roads, stopping every vehicles, checking drivers mostly fordrink driving, finding 42 drivers drunk, withdrawing 14 driving licenses in five days only in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county. Countrywide the numbers were 32,000 drivers checked till Easter Monday evening, from which 82 licenses taken on site, and 371 drink drivers found on roads, which is compared to average numbers show better result, as it is less than drink drivers' rate found on an average day.

“Drink driving is one of the three main killers on the roads, together with over-speeding and non-use of seatbelts,” Franziska Achterberg from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said on Tuesday (17 April), while presenting a study on how governments are performing in tackling the problem. Statistics show that the death toll linked to drink driving accidents amounts to 30 to 40% out of the 41,000 fatalities on European roads each year, but some EU capitals are still too lax on the issue.

According to the ETSC scoreboard, the death toll for drink driving has increased over the last decade in Hungary, Lithuania, Finland, Spain and the UK. On the other hand, improvement has been most apparent in the Czech Republic, where the number of deaths linked to drink driving dropped by approximately 12% over the last decade. Significant progress has also been seen in Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Latvia, France, Austria and Greece.

According to Czech conservative MEP Petr Duchon “the positive trend in the Czech Republic is mainly due to a long-term public education campaign… promoting the idea that drinking and driving do not fit.” Duchon also praised the country's zero limit for drink driving introduced in 1953, as well as a penalty system based on collecting points, with data being available to insurance companies in order to set progressive insurance premiums. The European Parliament, in general, has been a strong advocate of stricter road safety rules.

Last November, its transport committee suggested adopting an EU-wide zero alcohol tolerance for both inexperienced drivers and professional commercial drivers. “Any approach adopted by member states should be as uniform as possible,” the transport committee's German conservative member Renate Sommer said on Tuesday, adding that harmonization of EU criminal penalties applied to road traffic cases, as well as an increase in the frequency of random breath testing of drivers could also play a part.

Currently, road safety measures lie mainly within national powers. According to a Eurobarometer poll, there is strong public support for serious measures to tackle drink driving, with 80% of Europeans being in favor of random breath checks and 73% suggesting a 0.2 mg/ml or lower alcohol limit for young drivers. The same poll revealed that 36% of people were not able to say what the maximum permitted blood alcohol concentration limit in their home country is, however. (,,