European police clamp down on drink-driving
Figures from a European road safety campaign have revealed that Switzerland rates average when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
On December 12, Swiss police joined forces with about 20 European countries and launched the continent's biggest ever drink-driving screening programme.
Since AD (Alcohol/Drugs) 2005 was put into action, about 700,000 drivers around Europe have been stopped and tested for drink and drugs.
The police force of Basel Country, which was responsible for organising stop-checks in Switzerland, reported on Friday that 6,000 drivers were randomly tested in Switzerland.
Of these, 200 were driving under the influence of alcohol and 150 under the influence of drugs.
"These figures place Switzerland in the middle compared with other countries," Roland Aellen, president of TISPOL, the cross-border traffic police network which coordinated the controls, told swissinfo.
TISPOL was set up by the European Commission to organise and coordinate pan-European operations and campaigns. It aims to halve the number of road deaths in Europe by 2010.
"Each year over 40,000 people are killed on Europe's roads, and driving while under the influence of drink or drugs is a major contributing factor to this dreadful death toll," he said.
The campaign aims to reduce the incidence of driving when drunk or on drugs. Those who ignore the warning must be prepared to face criminal proceedings or the loss of their licence.
"The maximum punishment for driving under the influence is SFr40,000 ($30,000) or three years' imprisonment. And of course your driving licence will be revoked," Aellen said.
"Traditionally this time of the year is about celebration. We want people to enjoy themselves but not at the expense of someone's life. The message is clear: do not drive while under the influence of drink or drugs."
AD2005 is just one of the planned actions for the coming months. Speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and the driving of unroadworthy vehicles will also be targeted.
The drink-drive limit in Switzerland was reduced from 0.8 milligrams to 0.5 milligrams per millilitre on January 1 2005 but Aellen does not advocate a zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving – something that some campaigners have called for.
"The police must first of all control the existing limit," he said. "If you ask people when they were last tested by the police, they usually say five, eight, ten years ago."
"From my point of view there should be more checks, so drivers have the impression that there really is a risk if they drive under the influence. If that's not the case, there is no reason to go down to a zero limit."
Aellen added: "But of course it's a political question how many officers [for spot-checks] each canton will have."
The Federal Statistics Office believes the lower drink-drive limit has helped reduce the number of road accidents in Switzerland.
The total number of serious road accidents for the first six months of 2005 went down by 12 per cent compared with the previous year.
Since December 12 about 700,000 drivers around Europe have been stopped and tested for alcohol and drugs.
Of the 6,000 checked in Switzerland, 200 were driving under the influence of alcohol and 150 under the influence of drugs.
According to the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, every fifth person who dies on Swiss roads dies because of drunk drivers.
In 2004, 509 people died on Swiss roads.
TISPOL was established by the traffic police forces of Europe to try to improve road safety and law enforcement on the roads of Europe.
Its main priority is to reduce the number of people being killed and seriously injured. It aims to halve the number of road deaths in Europe by 2010.
TISPOL says more than 40,000 people are killed every year on Europe's roads.
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