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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Separating drinking from driving

Separating drinking from driving



Separating drinking from driving


Alcohol ignition interlocks

The most drastic measure in this category would be to make drink driving impossible for all drivers. Such a measure is not as futuristic as it may sound. In Sweden it is proposed that from the year 2012 all new cars must have an alcohol ignition interlock installed. This means that drivers can only start the engine after having completed a breath test that has indicated that they are sober. It is tempting to see the installation of alcohol ignition interlocks in all cars as the panacea for the drink-driving problem. Unfortunately there are still some technical drawbacks and inconveniencies. The overwhelming majority of drivers never drive over the legal limit. These drivers also have to install such a still costly device which needs to be calibrated and controlled regularly. Especially when it is cold, first performing a breath test before one can start a car; will mean that it will take several minutes before one can drive off. So far alcohol ignition interlocks are only used in rehabilitation programmes for drivers with a serious alcohol problem. At this moment of all EU member states, only Sweden uses them in rehabilitation programs and experiments are carried out in Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Norway.


Designated driver programmes

Another possibility to separate drinking from driving is not offering alcohol to drivers in restaurants, discos, pubs, bars etc. A possible way of doing this is the so-called 'designated driver programme'. Before a group of people decides to drive in one car to a certain place where they are about to consume alcohol, a designated driver is appointed. While the others drink the designated driver has to abstain from alcohol. To compensate for this inconvenience the designated driver is very often offered free soft drinks. A third measure in this category is to have good and cheap public transport and/or taxis to and from places where alcohol is consumed.


Effectiveness of alcohol ignition interlocks

According to a methodologically sound evaluation study on the installation of an alcohol ignition interlock in cars of offenders, the recidivism in this group dropped by about 65% in the first year after installation [7]. However, most studies also show that after removal of the lock, recidivism increases again, leading to almost no residual effect [6].

A possibility of getting a more permanent behavioral change is to combine an alcohol ignition interlock programme with a driving improvement course.


Effectiveness of designated driver programmes

It is very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of designated driver programmes. Ditter et al [12] have carried out a systematic review of the sparse studies that were available on this subject. They only found one evaluation on a designated driver programme that was based on the propagation of this idea via the media, like the Bob-programmes in Europe. This was the "Pick-a-Skipper" campaign in Western Australia. Telephone surveys indicated a 13 percentage point increase in people always selecting a designated driver and these people were also more likely to report awareness of the 'Skipper' concept. However, there was no significant change in self-reported drinking and driving or riding with an alcohol-impaired driver. Ditter et al found more evaluations of small-scale designated driver programmes (i.e. a particular disco that has a designated driver programme). Some positive effects were found but overall the effects were quite modest.