Police report dramatic surge in drink-driving cases this year
Specific causes still unclear, but reduced taxes a factor
According to police statistics, the number of drivers found under the influence of alcohol has increased by almost 20 percent this year compared with the same period in 2003. In particular, cases of aggravated drunken driving have gone up sharply. While it is difficult to tell the reasons for the growth yet, police have noted the improved weather conditions and the reduction from March in the prices of beers, wines and spirits.
Last year, over 24,000 suspected cases of drunken driving were recorded by police, and the corresponding figure for this year is predicted to reach as many as 30,000.
According to Supt. Timo Ajaste of the Ministry of the Interior's Police Department, the most dramatic surge has been in the number of aggravated DUI cases recorded. In Finland, the blood alcohol limit for aggravated drunken driving is 1.2 ppm.
Ajaste comments that it is difficult as yet to pin down the reasons for the growth in the number of suspected drink-driving cases. Tighter police surveillance, the milder spring weather coaxing more people into their cars, and the lowering of taxes - above all on spirits - in March, are all thought to be factors that have contributed to the growth.
During the first few months of the current year, the number of deaths in traffic accidents was at least 20 higher than within the same period last year. It should be remembered, nevertheless, that the Konginkangas bus disaster, in which 23 died, is skewing the March figures. Even so, the number of deaths in April was also up alarmingly, according to figures from Liikenneturva, the Central Organization for Traffic Safety in Finland.
Last weekend, too, produced a grim haul: seven people were killed in separate accidents over the period, and in one case in Kuopio extremely high speeds and intoxicants are thought to have been the cause of the death of two youths.
Police are planning a blitz this week in which special attention will be paid to drunken driving, the use of seat belts, and to speeding, particularly in residential streets where there is a lot of through traffic.
Furthermore, Liikenneturva has warned that since people have apparently lost sight of the earlier “not a drop” approach to getting behind the wheel, police surveillance and punishments - including a greater readiness to take away the licences of young transgressors - should be tightened overall. There has been much debate in recent times over huge speeding fines, but it is clear that in many of these cases the punishment was preceded by driving at speeds hugely over the limit.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Dramatic increase in numbers caught driving under influence of drugs (23.4.2004)
Liikenneturva - the Central Organization for Traffic Safety in Finland