Feature: Drink Driving Still a Problem in Slovenia

By , 16 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM Lifestyle
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STA, 15 January 2019 - Slovenian traffic statistics have been improving rapidly in recent years, but despite the advances - the annual number of road deaths dropped below 100 for the first time in 2018 - there are some persistent problems, drink driving chief among them. Change appears to be on the horizon.

Statistics for 2018 show that excessive alcohol consumption was responsible for 22 of the 92 road casualties. This is down from roughly a third of alcohol-related deaths in previous years.

But police have found that all drunk drivers involved in accidents last year had very high blood alcohol content, which contrasts with the overall decline in blood alcohol content in random traffic checks.

This shows, according to traffic experts and driving instructors, that existing programmes for dealing with drunk drivers simply do not work for the worst repeat offenders.

Related: The drink driving limit in Slovenia

In mid-November, for example, police reported pulling over a driving school car. The trainee driver was breathalysed and was found to have been drinking.

Subsequent inquiries determined that he had already lost his licence twice, which is why he had to re-take the driving test.

Thousands lose their driving licence in Slovenia every year, many due to drink driving.

A total of nearly 6,300 licences were revoked in 2017, up from almost 4,300 in 2016, though down significantly from the early 2100s, when up to 9,000 licences were revoked annually.

But temporary revoking of a driving licence is merely the most radical measure, most drink drivers are just fined and get penalty points. Fines range from EUR 300 to EUR 1,200.

In total, those who lose their licence may end up paying up to EUR 3,000 to settle the fine and re-take the test (which may include additional practice hours with instructors). But the cost no longer appears to dissuade drivers from sitting behind the wheel drunk.

"For someone with 25 years of experience behind the wheel retaking the driving test is not the solution. Their problem is not that they lack knowledge. Such drivers would need different treatment," says Manuel Pungartnik, the head of the driving school at the automotive club AMZS.

Related: Food, Alcohol, Sex, Marriage, Divorce & Death: Recent Statistics on Slovenia

In the past another major problem was the forging of licences. There was a huge scandal in Slovenia several years ago when dozens of driving instructors and officials were found to have colluded to issue forged licences; most of those who bought the licenses had lost them due to drink driving.

Moreover, penalty points are erased after two years and when the most severe cases of drink driving get to court, judges are restricted to official records of fines, which are available only for the last three years.

This means they do not get the full picture of a driver's past conduct when they decide whether and how they will be punished.

Saša Jevšnik, the head of the Traffic Safety Agency's department for drivers, says the agency might propose a change of the rulebook.

There might be a restriction on how many times a driver who lost their licence may retake the test, and drivers who cause accidents drunk may be sent to do community work to "face the consequences of their actions," she said.

Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said after a recent meeting with a road safety NGO that her ministry would examine possible solutions to tackle drink driving, in particular repeat offenders.

"There should be no trouble finding political consensus," the ministry said.

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