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20 Oct, 2010 07:46

“No drinking behind the wheel” campaign goes too far

As the police campaign on drink driving is being carried out, many people are beginning to resent its tough measures.

The drink-driving problem in Russia has always been one of the worst in the world, killing almost 2,000 people every year.

Police officers have begun Operation Inebriated Driver, equipped with brand-new breath analyzers and a zero tolerance law passed this August, allowing no alcohol at all in a driver's blood.

Surprisingly, instead of arresting more people, the police are actually seeing a drop in drink driving, as people are deterred by the new laws, says traffic police Major Aleksandr Sukhotin.

While authorities say that the combination of tougher legislation and more intensive policing is having the desired effect, not everyone agrees with the need for the new law.

Drivers’ associations claim the new laws are unworkable and discriminatory. According to them, statistics show that drink-driving has been on the wane in recent years, regardless of legislation.

Drinking a small amount of alcohol has no impact on driving, argues Sergey Kanaev, a member of the Russian Car Owners Association. “Why are licenses confiscated from those whose ability to drive isn't impaired,” he wonders.

Sergey Dudin, a car owner, was surprised to discover that alcohol content can be triggered not just by drinking small amounts of beer, but by bread, spicy food and milk. He conducted a small home experiment, taking a test with his own breath-analyzer after a cup of tea. The concentration of alcohol in his blood made up 0.086 per milliliter. “Now I am starting a campaign against this law, because I am not a criminal,” he adds.

The position of the government is that the new legislation is not so much about setting medical limits as about sending a clear message.

The previous limit was not clear for many people, states Parliament Deputy Vladimir Vasilyev. “Many thought they were under the limit when they weren't, and for others that first drink was enough for them to start drinking more and become reckless,” he told RT.

Tragically, drink-driving is only one of the problems Russia faces on the road, along with the corruption in giving out licenses which leads to reckless driving. The International Transportation Forum lists Russia as having the most traffic deaths per capita in the world.