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Road Safety

Within the European Commission's strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, reducing injuries and deaths from alcohol-related road accidents is a main priority. The EU aims to support Member States in their efforts to reduce road accidents and fatalities as part of the strategy's focus on alcohol as a lifestyle and health determinant.

Facts and Figures:

  • Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol contributes annually to at least 10,000 deaths on EU roads.
  • In the EU as a whole,around 2-3% of journeys are associated with an illegal Blood Alcohol Limit (BAC), resulting in 30-40% of driver deaths (ESCAPE 2003, ETSC 2003).
  • There are an average of 17,000 road traffic accidents per year (1 in 3 of all road traffic fatalities) attributable to alcohol.
  • Of those 17,000 accidents, gender plays a large role with 15,000 attributable to men and 2,000 attributable to women.
  • Traffic fatality rates are significantly worse in southern Europe than the rest of the EU.

Policy and Prevention:

The drinking-driving policies that are highly effective include:

  • unrestricted (random) breath testing
  • lowered blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels
  • license suspension
  • lower BAC levels for young drivers

Alcohol locks can be effective as a preventive measure, but are less effective with drink driving offenders unless they are fitted to a vehicle.

The World Health Organization has modelled the impact and cost of unrestricted breath testing compared with no testing. The results: an estimated 111,000 years of disability and premature death avoided at an estimated cost of €233 million each year.


  • Control of Alcohol Distribution: Policies that regulate the alcohol market, including the price of alcohol, the location, density, and opening hours of sales outlets,minimum legal purchase ages, and controls on the availability of alcohol, and on the promotion and advertising of alcohol can all have an impact in reducing drinking and driving and related fatalities.
  • Publicity: The European Union itself has set a target of halving the number of people killed annually in road traffic accidents between 2000 and 2010 through harmonization of penalities and the promotion of new technologies to improve road safety, including the implementation of the effective policies listed above. However, to be effective, drink driving laws must be publicized; if the public is unaware of a change in the law or an increase in its enforcement, it is unlikely that it will affect their drinking and driving. Although some question the success of drink-driving measures, they do appear to be effective when included in community-based programmes.

Publications and Resources

  • The European Transport Safety Council ETSC
  • The European Traffic Police Network TISPOL
  • Drink Driving: Towards Zero Tolerance - Report from ETSC (2012)
  • For a more detailed account of the impact of alcohol in Europe and to reference specific figures listed in the 'Facts and Figures' section above, please click here.


Pathways for Health

The overall goal of the Pathways for Health Project (PHP) was to improve the knowledge and foster the exchange of programmes and good practices on three specific areas: binge drinking; drink driving; and consumer information and labelling of alcoholic beverages.