PPA chief: Saaremaa crash was a crime, not an accident

The crash which claimed the lives of three people in Saaremaa over the weekend was a crime, not an accident, said the director general of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) on Tuesday evening.

Speaking on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" broadcast, PPA Director General Elmar Vaher called Saturday's collision, which was caused by a driver who was drunk and speeding several times over the legal limit, a crime.

Two women and a nine-month-old baby died in the collision. The intoxicated driver and a fourth passenger from the victims' vehicle were both taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The man who caused the fatal traffic collision between the two cars had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 3.6 per mille and was driving at 138 kilometers per hour.

Vaher said: "It's not an accident, but an event where a crime has taken place. I would summarize it in such a way that three people died, including a nine-month-old child, because a 34-year-old likes to drink. Here is another one, that the whole community actually knows what he's doing, what his lifestyle is, because it wasn't the first time. And the police knew a lot about him too — we've dealt with him many times, only last year he was in the hands of the police again."

He added: "And let's be honest — at 3 p.m., 3.6 per mille is no longer an accident, but a very serious crime."

Scene of the deadly crash in Saaremaa. January 11, 2020. Source: Irina Mägi

Vaher said what happened in Saaremaa is a clear example that the impact of previous punishments have not changed a person's behaviour.

"In situations where a person is addicted to alcohol, the effect of the punishment is very small. /.../ A person who is intoxicated with a BAC of 3.6 per mille not does have control over his actions while sitting behind the wheel. He probably wouldn't do better whether he receives three years in prison or more. This is a sick person," said Vaher.

"In this case, this 34-year-old Saaremaa man is just that, we really knew everything about him. We saw a court decision imposing a conditional sentence on him, a decision with which he was arrested, and on top of his arrest days, the decision to take away his driver's license will not help. This is a disease that needs to be treated," he added.

In 2017, drunk driving legislation was tightened. Vaher said the changes made were the rights ones, but changing the law again will not improve the situation. In his view, the solution lies in combating several factors.

"If we look for ways to change laws or for new projects every day, our consistency will be lost. I believe that we have to deal with the psychology of the driver and not think that a man who is intoxicated with a BAC of 3.6 per mille will not get behind the wheel because the [potential] prison sentence could be three times larger," he said.

Candles and children's toys brought to the crash site in Saaremaa. January 12, 2020. Source: Margus Muld/ERR


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Editor: Helen Wright

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