From 2018 to 2022, there were 271 traffic accidents caused by intoxicated motor vehicle drivers, resulting in 308 fatalities. Photo: Mostphotos

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A recent report reveals a grim reality: over a third of fatal motor vehicle accidents in Finland from 2018 to 2022 involved drivers under the influence. The data, presented by the Finnish Crash Data Institute (OTI), highlights the urgent need for more effective measures to combat substance abuse on the roads.

During the five-year period, there were 271 accidents caused by intoxicated drivers, resulting in 308 fatalities.

This represents over 38% of all motor vehicle fatalities. The report underscores the persistent problem of impaired driving and calls for comprehensive strategies to address it.

For years, investigative boards have suggested numerous measures to mitigate substance-related accidents. These recommendations focus on addressing the root cause: substance dependency

Key suggestions from the report include identifying substance dependency within healthcare as a condition that impairs driving fitness, enhancing collaboration between healthcare providers and law enforcement to improve the monitoring of driving fitness, and providing rehabilitation programs for substance abusers to offer necessary support.

To prevent accidents, the report recommends the mandatory use of alcohol ignition interlocks for drivers repeatedly caught driving under the influence, increasing traffic surveillance to intercept and prevent impaired driving, and modernizing the vehicle fleet to implement better safety technologies in vehicles.

"Despite strong societal disapproval of drunk driving, practical enforcement is lacking," said Esa Räty, OTI's Traffic Safety Manager. "Strengthening inter-agency cooperation and enforcing stricter driving bans, along with mandatory use of ignition interlocks, could significantly reduce accidents."

Finland's traffic safety strategy is guided by Vision Zero, aiming for zero fatalities or serious injuries in traffic. Additionally, the EU's driving license directive mandates addressing the driving rights of substance-dependent individuals. The directive stipulates that licenses should not be issued or renewed for those dependent on substances, except under strict medical supervision.

The OTI report, "Substance-Related Accidents 2018–2022," provides a detailed analysis of fatal traffic accidents involving drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians under the influence of intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs, and medications affecting driving ability. It shows that out of 742 fatal motor vehicle accidents, 271 involved intoxicated drivers. Alcohol was the most common substance, but one-third of these drivers were under the influence of multiple substances.

In addition to the 308 fatalities caused by intoxicated drivers, the victims included 24 innocent passengers in other vehicles, five cyclists, three pedestrians, and 45 passengers traveling with the intoxicated drivers.

The report also highlights the dangers of cycling under the influence. From 2018 to 2022, 18 fatal accidents involved intoxicated cyclists, and 20 involved intoxicated pedestrians. Many of these accidents were single-vehicle incidents where the cyclists were heavily intoxicated. The report calls for increased public awareness about the risks of cycling while intoxicated.

"Accident investigations show that intoxicated drivers are a major cause of serious accidents. To reduce these incidents, we must address substance abuse among drivers more rigorously," emphasized Kalle Parkkari, OTI's Director of Traffic Safety. "Both Vision Zero and the EU directive mandate stricter controls on driving rights for substance abusers, but current measures in Finland are insufficient."

As Finland continues its commitment to improving traffic safety, the findings and recommendations of the OTI report highlight the critical need for targeted interventions and stronger enforcement to tackle the issue of impaired driving.

HT

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