Drunk driving problem raised again in Latvia

Take note – story published 1 year and 2 months ago

Last year, the government decided that the Road Traffic Regulations should include a point that drunk drivers would have to undergo behavioral correction programs in order to get their licenses back. Now, as the preparation of such programs is taking a long time, the Transport Ministry is proposing a U-turn and abolishing the amendments, Latvian Radio reported on March 21.

The legal amendments were supported by the government in May last year. The passage of amendments into law was delayed by the change of the Saeima, but the specific intention has proved to be difficult to carry out, and specialists are not in a hurry to create such a program. The Transport Ministry (SM) therefore proposes to remove this intention from the draft law. This was supported by SM representative Annija Novikova at the meeting of the Saeima Economic Committee on Tuesday.

“In our view, the amendments to the Criminal Law and the Road Traffic Regulations which entered into force last year, namely the introduction of [..] criminal liability is applied and in addition, the seizure of a vehicle, have a much greater impact on the behavior of road users than correction groups,” the SM spokeswoman said.

The Ministry of Justice (TM) objects to this vision. Car confiscation and criminal liability refer to a small proportion of the offenders who have been caught, those who have been intoxicated over a 1.5 promile. This type of punishment is considered to be an effort to respond to the consequences rather than addressing the causes, argued Sandis Vilcāns, lawyer at the Department of Administrative Rights of TM.

"Neither administrative nor criminal penalties will ever be a highly effective means of preventing driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances. Long-term solutions have a direct impact on the behavior, thinking, and consciousness of the individuals themselves. Behavioral-adjustment programs are one of the following features. Yes, there have been difficulties in the agreement process, but this is not a reason to opt out of these programs,” said the TM representative.

This program would mainly cover those who have driven in a state of light intoxication and are not addicts.

Members of the Saeima commission agreed to discuss the issue of the adjustment program first in the Transport Safety think-tank, with narcologists and other experts.

As reported earlier, a staggering 3,500 drivers are stripped of their licenses due to drunk driving in Latvia each year – equivalent to nearly 10 every single day. 

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