New drivers should stay dry, EU lawmakers say

Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:16pm EDT
 
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By Christopher Le Coq

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Newly qualified motorists in Europe should not be allowed to drink any alcohol before driving until two years after they have passed their test, EU lawmakers proposed on Tuesday.

People with more than one drink-driving conviction would have 'alco-locks' installed on their vehicle under the proposals and residential area speed limits would be cut to 30kph.

"We can only achieve safer streets if we take the same measures at all levels -- Europe, member states and as individuals," said Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, the German who tabled the motion that won the backing of a majority in the European Parliament.

Blood alcohol limits in the EU range from 0.9 milligrams per millilitre in Cyprus to zero in Estonia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Thirty percent of accidents are caused by young male drivers and another 15 percent by young female drivers.

The typical residential speed limit in the EU is 50kph, although there are national variations.

The plan was welcomed by the European Cyclists' Federation. "It's about politicians creating cities for living in rather than thoroughfares for vehicles," it said in a statement. "It's about reclaiming streets and neighborhoods for people and cyclists."

Lawmakers backing the proposals believe they would help reduce accidents. Some 35,000 Europeans died in road accidents in 2009, according to the latest available figures, and a further 1.5 million were injured.

Following Tuesday's vote, it is now up to the European Commission to decide if it will draft a law, which then needs the blessing of countries to be introduced.

(Reporting by Christopher Le Coq; Editing by Robert Woodward)