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Drink driving kills – 5,600 deaths could be saved

9th May is the European Road Safety Day. 5.600 deaths could be prevented annually by eliminating drink driving.

From 2001 to 2012, around 240,000 passengers in car were killed in road collisions in the EU. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg as the number gets higher when taking into account other minor or major injuries. There is also some positive news. In 2012 there were 12,345 deaths compared with 27,700 in 2001, a cut of 55%[1].

Drink driving is one of the main causes for road safety. According to estimates from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) 5,600 deaths could be prevented annually by eliminating drink driving[2]. Many countries have taken big steps in preventing drink driving, and Switzerland is one of them. They were already ranking high on road safety, and further strengthened their policies in 2014 when they implemented lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels for new and professional drives, as well as retraining for drink-driving first offenders[3].

Whilst the majority of countries have a legal BAC level of 0,5; some have also taken a zero tolerance approach whilst others like United kingdom and Malta have relative high levels (0,8 BAC). Driving under the influence of drugs such as cannabis is also a concern. Efforts are also being made in this regard to highlight the harm of driving under the influence of various drugs (including prescription drugs).

Mariann Skar, Secretary General in the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, Eurocare, supports zero tolerance initiatives to drink driving, and says: “5.600 deaths are preventable. What is needed today is stronger regulation and better enforcement.”


Zero tolerance for drink driving in all Member States for all drivers[1]

Adequate enforcement is needed within Member States (police checks, random breath testing etc)

Information on drink driving, the harm which results from drinking and driving and the penalties should be included in driving lessons, driving tests and in published driving codes

Ban on sale of alcoholic beverages at petrol stations

Introduce alcohol interlocks for professional drivers and in a first phase to repeat offenders

Introduce mandatory labelling on alcohol products on drink driving

[1] A technical enforcement tolerance level could be set at 0,1 or 0,2 g/l BAC but the message to drivers should always be clear: no drink and drive