Many drunk drivers caught over weekend in Latvia

The number of drivers caught driving under the influence increased over the weekend. A road safety expert told Latvian Radio Monday that, in addition to increased penalties, the key to road safety lies in increased police presence on the roads. 

On Sunday, police stopped 16 drivers on Latvian roads for drunk driving and another four for driving under the influence of drugs. As a result, 17 criminal proceedings were initiated. On Saturday, 13 criminal proceedings were initiated for drunk driving. 

Drivers spoken to on the streets of Rīga are divided - some are convinced that more frequent police checks on the roads are needed, others said that checks and fines are enough and that other solutions should be sought.

Juris Jančevskis, Head of the State Police Response Department, explained that last weekend, in connection with the events of March 16 - Legionnaires' Remembrance Day - and also with the so-called Russian presidential elections on March 17, the State Police carried out additional controls on roads throughout Latvia, which explains the higher number of offenders recorded, as usually on average up to 10 drunk drivers are caught on the roads during the weekend.

Jančevskis said: "The average profile remains the same over the years, it is a man aged 31-50 years and under the influence of over one and a half promille. At the moment, no other proposals are being considered from the authorities to punish these individuals and we see that the confiscation of vehicles is also frequent enough.

"In 2023, we have 815 vehicles confiscated and in 1,600 cases, the full or partial value of the vehicle is being recovered.

"As far as supervision is concerned, the police are working within their capacity, yes, we do not deny that there is a shortage of staff, but we are still stopping a large enough number of these drivers with the existing staff. And we are definitely planning mass inspections in the summer."

Oskars Irbītis, a road safety expert at the Road Safety Directorate (CSDD), is convinced that more resources need to be invested in having more police crews on the roads and streets to reduce the feeling of impunity for those who choose to drink and drive regularly.

Irbītis said: "As we see, once there is a campaign, the number of people caught is much higher, which means that there are these offenders in society, but we just don't feel that police presence. Robots and all the automated machines don't give penalty points. So what is needed is this police officer who stops the driver in traffic and can apply penalty points. When I work with people who have collected 8 penalty points and attend the lectures to clear the penalty points, what I hear very strongly is that there is a feeling of impunity that they will not get caught because they have not been stopped by an officer for a very long time. Simply having these police crews in the traffic and visible is already a major improvement in road safety."

Irbītis added that the decision to drink and drive is often made while already under the influence, so society has a big role to play in preventing people from getting behind the wheel while drunk.

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