In Finland, a country of nearly five and a half million people, alcohol is involved in a quarter of all traffic accidents which result in one or more fatalities. The blood alcohol limit for drivers there is the European standard maximum of 50mg per 100ml. In the UK, the limit is 80mg per 100ml. Finnish police strictly enforce all traffic laws and carry out random roadside breathalyser tests. Those drivers whose roadside readings exceed the legal limit must complete further tests. A conviction for drunk driving is accompanied by a driving disqualification and either a fine or a maximum of six months in prison. Aggravated drunk driving (having in excess of 120mg alcohol per 100ml of blood) leads to a driving disqualification, an income-based fine and a maximum of two years in prison.
But despite these measures to reduce the number of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) related accidents, around 26,000 Finnish drivers are caught over the limit each year. However, the Finnish Government, supported by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (http://www.trafi.fi/en/
), have now increased their armoury to include alcohol interlocks (alcolocks). A successful large scale trial of the devices was carried out between 2005 and 2008. This has resulted in a permanent programme of their installation – at the drivers’ expense – in the cars of those convicted of DUI. The Finnish Transport Safety Agency believes that alcolocks should now be installed in all school transportation, and eventually in all professional and commercial vehicles.
An interesting statistic gathered from the alcolock data collected by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency is that drivers using the device ‘fail’ to start their vehicles most often between 4am and midday on every day of the week, except Sunday.
The RAC Foundation believes targeted check point testing for drink drivers is important in acting as a strong deterrent to those drink drivers who do not currently believe they will be caught. Without this type of approach persistent drink drivers are not reminded of the risk of being stopped. Visible enforcement represents a real threat of being caught by the Police and is thought to be influential on many drivers’ behaviour: whether they use their cars or organise some other means of transport for a particular occasion, for example.
According to latest government statistics: (http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/casualtiesgbar/rrcgb2009)
Of all casualties recorded on British roads in 2009, 5 per cent (11,990) occurred when someone was driving whilst over the legal alcohol limit. The number of people estimated to have been killed in drink drive accidents in 2009 was 17 per cent (380) of all road fatalities.