Bill tied to intoxication of cyclists leaves police perplexed

Electric scooter in Tallinn.
Electric scooter in Tallinn. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of Climate has left out of amendments to the Traffic Act and Road Transport Act a recommendation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the police to lay down a maximum permitted level of intoxication for cyclists, drivers of scooters and small mopeds.

The current law simply states that bicycles, scooters or small mopeds must not be operated under the influence. According to the Law Enforcement Act, police officers must detect the rider's state of intoxication based on external observation and questioning. Police Lt. Sirle Loigo said that this form of detection is subjective, time-consuming and rather resembles a scene from an American movie where a driver who is suspected of being under the influence has to walk along a straight line their finger on their nose.

"If a person does not exhibit signs of intoxication, we have no legal grounds on which to punish them even if the breathalyzer tells us they have a blood alcohol content of 2 per mil," Loigo said, adding that drivers have been punished for very different levels of intoxication as a result.

She said that the whole process could be rendered simpler for drivers and the police by introducing a maximum permitted level of blood alcohol content also for cyclists and scooter and moped drivers.

The idea was included in the initial version of amendments to the Traffic Act and Road Transport Act a year ago, with the maximum permitted level of intoxication set at 0.5 per mil.

While the blood alcohol content of drivers of cars and buses must not exceed 0.2 per mil, this would have been 0.5 per mil for bicycles and scooters, Loigo said.

Both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Police and Border Guard (PPA) were perplexed to find the clause has not made it to the recent version of the amendments the Ministry of Climate recently sent our for approval.

Minister: We are willing to restore the provisions if the PPA insists

Minister of Climate Kristen Michal (Reform) said that half-finished ideas did not make the final version of the bill.

He added that if the Interior Ministry and the PPA confirm their position of 0.5 per mil being the suitable limit, the Climate Ministry is willing to add in the clause.

The police also proposed hiking the fine amounts for riding bicycles or scooters under the influence. The initial idea was to hike the current fine of just €20 by at least ten times.

"The term of punishment is too low. The current fine will not discipline anyone. But if we look at the sheer number of accidents involving light vehicles, 30 percent of the drivers involved have consumed alcohol," Loigo said.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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