The irresponsibles behind the wheel

By Christian BlockLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

The introduction of blood-alcohol limits has contributed to fewer people losing their lives on the roads in the EU due to alcohol. But the trend is stagnating. While people in Luxembourg seem to display reckless behaviour, the political reaction remains timid.

This article is provided to you free of charge. If you want to support our team and promote quality journalism, subscribe now.

When Pit meets up with friends for dinner, he had actually planned not to drink. But when an acquaintance begins to tease him about not being a killjoy after all, Pit buckles. "A glass of red wine, what's the big deal?" he thinks to himself and toasts with the group. "To life." By the end of the evening, when Pit gets behind the wheel of his car, it won't have been just one glass. Perhaps, as he has done so many times before, he will arrive home in one piece. But maybe the impairment caused by the alcohol that night will be his undoing.

Excessive evenings and parties, overestimating one's own driving ability or underestimating the risks à la "It's a short drive anyway": Situations like in this fictitious example have probably been experienced by everyone. Who has never been behind the wheel, on a motorbike or bicycle, or been a passenger while drunk? And who has been involved in an accident once or almost because of this impairment?

To curb the problem, more than 20 years ago the EU Commission recommended that member states introduce a maximum blood alcohol limit (of 0.5 g/l). At that time, most European countries were already at or below this blood alcohol limit. The other states then followed suit. It was not until 2007 that Luxembourg reduced the limit from 0.8 to 0.5, so that today 27 EU states, including Norway and Switzerland, have a maximum blood alcohol limit of 0.5.

Nevertheless, driving under the influence of alcohol, often in combination with other substances and/or excessive speed, is still one of the most frequent causes of accidents. Not a weekend goes by without the police having to establish during checks or after accidents that alcohol was involved.

Against this background, the EU Commission set out in 2018 to review the recommendation it had formulated more than 20 years ago and commissioned a study for this purpose. Despite progress, the report published last year contains sobering findings. One of them: "Despite the increasing risk [of accidents resulting in serious and fatal injuries], people continue to drive when they have consumed alcohol."

Continue reading for free

Get access to this article by subscribing to our newsletter that is sent twice a week. You also have to have a Journal account.

Already have an account?

Log in