Government to weigh up raft of anti-drink-driving measures ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Police breath tests in process.
Police breath tests in process. Source: ERR

The coalition cabinet is meeting Thursday do discuss drink driving counter-measures, including suspendng medical certificates for those convicted, harsher penalties, longer addiction treatment periods, a points system for offenders and the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices.

Medical certificates

A ministry of Justice review has highlighted that a family doctor who issues a health certificate to a driver will generally not know if a person has a drink-driving offense to their name, and that such offenses in any case donot automatically invalidate the medical certificate, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

The ministry proposes that a driver who is found guilty of driving while intoxicated should automatically have both their driving license and medical certificate suspended and, in order to restore the latter in order to get back the former, should undergo an additional medical examination with the family doctor.

The justice ministry acknowledges that increases in penalties for drunk driving have not yet significantly reduced the incidence of these offenses, but nevertheless proposes to increase the maximum penalties here. The ministry recommends raising the current maximum sentence from 12 years to 15 years, for causing serious traffic accidents while intoxicated.

Sentencing

In addition, the justice ministry proposes raising the maximum sentence of four years to five years' imprisonment for drunk driving in repeated cases. The Ministry of Justice does not consider the increase in the minimum sentences so far to be justified, as it sees that the problem cannot be resolved through changes in penal law, which is confirmed by the fact that stricter penalties for intoxicated drivers in 2017 did not bring about the desired change in curtailing drink driving cases.

Alcohol addiction treatment

The ministry says that so far, treatment for alcohol addiction has been funded by the European Social Fund , but this will end this year. The state budget requires €3.1 million per year to continue these activities. However, if drug users were to be permanently treated via 675 treatment units, the additional funding requirement would increase by about €632,000 a year, the ministry says.

The ministry says that so far, treatment for alcohol addiction has been funded by the European Social Fund , but this will end this year. The state budget requires €3.1 million per year to continue these activities. However, if drug users were to be permanently treated via 675 treatment units, the additional funding requirement would increase by about €632,000 a year, the ministry says.

Surveillance measures

The justice ministry also recommends the introduction of electronic surveillance equipment to control the ban on alcohol consumption, by the third quarter of this year. 

This means that probation supervision will introduce electronic surveillance equipment to control the prohibition of alcohol consumption. 

The equipment should be worn or used by persons who have been subject to due diligence by the court.

Another ministry, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, is expected to prepare a system for recording and highlighting drivers' traffic behavior, to facilitate a point system to include consideration for drunk driving misconduct. The justice ministry also wants the economic affairs ministry to provide analysis of the use of ignition interlock devices – which use a breathylzer and will disable a vehicle's ignition system in the case of alcohol use over the limit.

Drink driving checks in Estonia amongst highest in Europe

The Ministry of Justice is also to carry out analysis and to make proposals on the need to change the practice of drink-driving offenses, by mid-December at the latest.

The situation with drink-driving and drink-driving accidents has not changed significantly in the last five years. 

The number of recorded offenses and crimes depends primarily on the number of police checks carried, the Ministry of Justice adds.

Of all the drivers checked, the current rate is 0.78 percent found to be driving while intoxicated, compared with 0.89 percent in 2015.

Last year, the police controlled 921,527 drivers' intoxication, putting the frequency of drink-driving inspections carried out in Estonia at the top of European countries, where a comparable number of inspections are carried out only in Finland.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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