The Swiss authorities have launched a campaign to make drivers aware of the new lower blood alcohol limit being introduced in six weeks’ time.
Drivers are being told that the new 0.5 milligrams per millilitre limit equals one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, and that they may not exceed that level.
The Swiss Federal Health Office and Swiss Council for Accident Prevention hope that by reducing the limit from 0.8 milligrams to 0.5, hundreds of road traffic deaths can be avoided.
The campaign will run until the new law is introduced on January 1, 2005. Organisers plan to post advertisements on billboards in December and to run adverts on Swiss radio and TV channels.
Under the new legislation, a driver whose blood alcohol concentration exceeds 0.5 milligrams per millilitre will be considered unfit to drive.
By reducing the blood alcohol limit and through use of a breathalysing test, the Swiss Federal Roads Authority hopes to see road safety improved.
According to the authority, studies from abroad have shown that reducing the blood alcohol limit leads to a 15 per cent decrease in the number of alcohol-related deaths on roads.
Based on these studies, the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention expects that the new law will prevent 48 traffic deaths and 320 serious injuries every year.
The police are authorised to carry out random alcohol tests and can require drivers to submit to a test if their driving capability appears to be in doubt. If the test proves positive, a medical examination and a blood test will then follow.
A drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.5 milligrams but less than 0.8 milligrams per millilitre could face imprisonment of up to three months and/or a fine of up to SFr5,000 ($4,284).
If the alcohol concentration exceeds 0.8 milligrams, the driver can expect a fine of up to SFr40,000 or imprisonment of up to three years.
swissinfo with agencies
According to the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, the risk of causing an accident increases with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.5 milligrams per millilitre, or 0.3 for new drivers.
Every fifth person who dies on Swiss roads dies because of drunk drivers.
About 30% of all traffic accidents – 50% at weekends - are caused by drink driving.
A blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.5 milligrams per millilitre affects a driver’s concentration, reactions and coordination.
At the same time a driver is more likely to take risks and can overestimate his or her ability and become careless.
Alcohol reinforces the negative effects of stress, pressure of time and anger.