Drinks, drugs and driving on the rise

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Even though Norway has among the toughest laws in the world to combat driving under the influence, new statistics suggest that a startlingly high number of drunk or drugged drivers are still on the road.

Police regularly set up controls to check for drunk driving, but cases of driving under the influence are nonetheless on the rise. PHOTO: Politi

A study done by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) showed that one in four drivers involved in serious or fatal traffic accidents had either alcohol or drugs in their system.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Monday that the institute collected blood samples during the course of a full year from motorists sent to the emergency room at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo after they’d been involved in an accident.

Blood test results from 132 injured drivers showed a fourth of them had been driving under the influence of either alcohol, amphetamines, valium or other legal and illegal drugs.

“The study underlines that there’s a connection between consumption of intoxicants and traffic accidents,” Per Trygve Normann, project leader at the health institute, told Aftenposten.

Both the police and the traffic safety organization Trygg Trafikk confirmed that they’re seeing rising incidents of motorists driving under the influence. “We’ve had lots of indications that many of our traffic deaths and injuries are the result of intoxication, and now we have documentation,” said Tori Grytli of Trygg Trafikk.

Her organization is urging allocation of more resources to try to get drivers under the influence off the road, either through more random traffic controls or more flexible laws that would allow police to more easily pull over drivers suspected of being intoxicated.

The Scandinavian countries have long used large fines, immediate seizure of drivers’ licenses and mandatory jail terms for motorists caught driving under the influence. Trygg Trafikk also urges use of so-called “alco-locks” on cars for convicted drunk drivers, which would require them to pass a breathalyzer test before their car could be started.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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