Most drunk drivers are young men

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Norway is known for its strict laws against drunk driving, but they don’t keep all intoxicated motorists off the roads. New statistics show a huge increase in the numbers of drunk driving citations, and young, single men are the worst offenders.

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

Police regularly set up controls to check for drunk driving in Norway, but cases of driving under the influence have soared and young single men are the worst offenders. PHOTO: Politi

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday that men in general are vastly overrepresented among the numbers of motorists caught by police while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. NRK also reported that 400 people have been caught driving under the influence so far this year, up 70 percent from last year.

Defining the ‘typical drunk driver’
NRK gained access to statistics compiled by police in Hedmark and Oppland counties. They kept track of drunk driving incidents between 2008 and 2014, and could form a picture of the “typical drunk driver” in the sprawling area where it can be difficult and expensive to call for a taxi.

“Most of the statistics that involve accidents and problems in traffic show that men are overrepresented, that’s just how it is,” Steinar Mæhlum of the Vestoppland Police District told NRK. “The fact that many are unmarried can mean that the fewer obligations you have in life, the less careful you can be.”

Two out of three drivers cited for driving under the influence were young, single men. The statistics showed that 40 percent of those caught in Hedmark and Oppland between 2008 and 2014 were under the age of 30.

Reflects national trend
Norway’s public health institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) contends that the numbers from Hedmark and Oppland reflect national trends. The institute monitors results of all blood tests taken in cases of suspected drunk driving nationwide, and Dr Knut Hjelmeland told NRK that the “the national statistics reveal the same trends among those who drive while under the influence.” He said 88 percent are men and most of them are aged 20 to 40.

There’s also been an increase in the numbers of drivers who tested positive for drugs instead of alcohol. “Stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine can lead people to take more chances and underestimate risk,” Hjelmeland told NRK.

One 28-year-old single man identified simply as “Jon” was described as a “typical drunk driver.” He’s been caught and charged twice and now he meets regularly with a psychologist, to control anxiety and keep him away from alcohol.

Heavy fine, prison, license suspension
His first offense resulted in a fine of NOK 35,000 (around USD 6,000 at the time), a month in prison and seizure of his driver’s license for two years. Just a few months after he got it back, he was caught driving drunk again. He was hit with the same fine, another month in prison and his driver’s license was taken away for at least five years.

Mæhlum of the Vestoppland Police District, hasn’t lost faith in the next generation of youth, though, nor even young men. “There’s a lot to suggest that today’s youth have a much more sensible attitude towards alcohol than my own generation,” Mæhlum told NRK. Norwegian media has reported earlier that drinking has declined among teenagers in recent years.

“So we can hope this will also be reflected in statistics eventually,” Mæhlum said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund