Tax cuts on alcohol have not led to increase in DUI cases
The number of persons caught driving while under the influence has not increased from the previous year, according to annual monitoring studies.
Equally, the numbers of those who have had a drink before getting behind the wheel but who are not legally over the limit have not increased relative to the 2004 figures.
Taken overall, the results for this year are at much the same level as in 2003 and 2004. Hence it could be argued that the tax-cuts on alcoholic beverages do not seem as yet at least to have had any negative impact on the incidence of drunken drivers.
The monitoring for statistical purposes is carried out each spring and autumn at comparable locations around the country. Police breathalyse the drivers of all vehicles passing the checkpoint.
This year 0.15% of all those tested proved to be over the legal limit, as against 0.16% in 2004. Those who caused the needle to flicker on the device, but who were not over the legal limit, accounted for 0.72% of drivers, compared with 0.71% last year. The 2003 figures were 0.21% and 0.92% respectively.
The studies were carried out jointly by the Police Department of the Ministry of the Interior, the Traffic Police, Helsinki University, and the National Health Institute.
By the end of September, police checks had caught slightly more than 20,000 drunken drivers on Finnish roads.
This compares very closely with the 2004 figure for the first nine months of the year of 20,100.
The reductions in taxation on alcohol that were enacted in March 2004 have led to increased consumption and to calls in some quarters for a roll-back of some of the cuts, as public drunkenness and crimes assocaited with alcohol have been seen to be on the increase, and recent figures indicated a sharp leap in the number of alcohol-related deaths.
These latest findings tend to confirm what was already known (see article from August 2004), namely that drinking and driving is not directly related to ease of access to alcohol. A great many of those in the aggravated drunk driving category (over 1.2ppm) are also repeat offenders.
Shortly after the cuts were brought in, there was a slight rise recorded in drink-driving offences, but this was attributed to a stronger police presence and thus a higher risk of being caught.
Whilst the numbers - in excess of 20,000 DUI cases - may appear startlingly high, it is perhaps worth noting that the likelihood of being stopped and breathalysed by police in Finland is several times greater than in many other European countries. An article from December 2004 indicated the risk of facing a police alcometer is 16 times higher in Finland than in Italy, for instance.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Social Services Minister calls for tax hike on strong spirits (3.11.2005)
Record number of alcohol-related deaths in Finland last year (1.11.2005)
Drink driving figures apparently not affected by alcohol tax cut (23.8.2004)
Behind the wheel, the Finns are the most obedient souls in Europe (21.12.2004)