Zero tolerance could help prevent up to 5,000 alcohol-linked road deaths a year in the EU

  • December 11, 2019

The European Union should introduce a zero-tolerance drink-driving limit in 2020 as part of a package of measures to help prevent up to 5,000 alcohol-linked road deaths every year, according to the European Transport Safety Council, authors of a new report.

The EU has recently set a target to reduce deaths and serious injuries on the road by half by 2030 (1). A quarter of the 25,000 EU road deaths each year are likely to be linked to alcohol, according to European Commission estimates.  Therefore more progress on tackling drink driving is essential to reaching the overall target.

Ellen Townsend, Policy Director of ETSC said:

“Almost 70 years since the first scientific evidence was published on the link between drink-driving and road deaths – it is impossible to accept that thousands of families are still being ripped apart every year in the EU because of it.  In 2020, we want to see the EU and Member States, coming up with a vision to end drink-driving once and for all with a combination of zero-tolerance limits, a big step-up in enforcement and wider use of technology such as mandatory use of alcohol interlocks in buses, lorries and vans.”      

Around 2,654 people were officially recorded killed in alcohol-related collisions in 23 EU countries in 2018, according to the new ETSC report.  But the true figures are likely to be significantly higher due to underreporting and problems with data collection.

Currently only seven out of 28 EU countries have a standard Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of 0.2 g/l or below.  0.1 and 0.2 are effectively equivalent to zero tolerance, while still allowing for  consumption of certain medicines, or drinks marketed as alcohol free.  19 have a limit of 0.5, while Lithuania has 0.4.  The UK currently has the highest standard limit of 0.8, though Scotland has set a lower limit of 0.5.  Many countries also set lower limits for professional and/or novice drivers. (2)

ETSC is also calling on the EU to require the fitment of alcohol interlock devices in professional vehicles such as lorries, coaches and vans as well as requiring their use by recidivist drink-driving offenders as well as first time high-level offenders.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France and Sweden are among the countries that offer alcohol interlock offender programmes today while France and Finland have legislated the use of alcohol interlocks for some categories of professional vehicles such as school buses.

New EU legislation agreed earlier this year will require all new vehicles from 2022 to be capable of being fitted with an alcohol interlock via a standard interface between the vehicle and the device.

ETSC is also calling on EU Member States to improve data collection of alcohol-related deaths by, for example, mandating systematic alcohol testing of all road users involved in a collision with injury.  Member States also need to step up enforcement and introduce national targets for the number of roadside checks, according to ETSC.

13 EU countries are cutting drink-driving deaths at a faster rate than overall declines in road deaths, according to the new research.  In contrast, the UK, Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Sweden and Slovakia all appear to be tackling drink-driving at a slower rate than the overall progress.

Download the new report at:

Why the EU needs a zero tolerance drink-driving limit – share the video: YouTube | Facebook | Twitter

How alcohol interlocks can help prevent drink-driving – share the video: YouTube | Facebook | Twitter

  1. See:
  2. Drink-driving limits across Europe: