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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 17:06 GMT
EC demands tough drink driving laws
Christmas drink-drive campaign advert
About 10,000 people die in road accidents a year across the EU
By Angus Roxburgh in Brussels

The European Commission has called on four member governments to tighten up their drink driving laws.

The countries concerned - the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy and Luxembourg - allow a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood than most other European Union countries.

The Commission says the tolerated level of alcohol in the blood should be cut in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths on the roads caused by drunken drivers - currently about 10,000 a year across the EU.


At least 1,000 lives could be saved by the package of recommended measures

Commission statement
In most EU countries it is illegal to drive with more than 0.5 of a milligram of alcohol per millilitre of blood.

But in the UK, Ireland, Italy and Luxembourg a higher concentration is permitted - 0.8 milligrams.

Now the European Commission would like all countries to adopt what it describes as the best practice of 0.5 milligrams, and even less - just 0.2 - for inexperienced drivers.

Drink driving laws
10 of the EU's 15 countries already fix a 0.5 mg/ml limit
In the UK, Ireland, Italy and Luxembourg, the limit is 0.8 mg/ml
Sweden has the toughest rules, with a 0.2 mg/ml limit

The Commission has no powers to force national governments to adopt such a measure, so its proposal comes merely in the form of a recommendation.

It hopes this will put pressure on member states to comply.

The Commission issued statistics showing that about 10,000 deaths on the roads - about a quarter of all those killed in road accidents - can be directly attributed to drunk drivers.

In London, a spokesman for the UK Government said it agreed that more had to be done to combat drink driving, but wanted to consider the detail of the Commission's recommendation and sound out the views of other member states.

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