"Belgians haven't got the message"

A European survey shows that it is Belgians who are most frequently under the influence of drugs and alcohol, when they are involved in a serious road accident. The figures have been released as part of the DRUID research project (Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medicines).

The survey covered Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Lithuania and Finland. In each country 2,500 blood samples were taken from drivers who were seriously injured in an accident.

Belgian drivers had the highest alcohol and cannabis levels. 42.5% of drivers had 0.1 per mill alcohol in their blood. 38% had more than the 0.5 per mill, the legal limit beyond which driving is not allowed. The Belgian average was 1.6 per mill which corresponds to seven beers.

In other countries the average is equalled but fewer people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In other words: abroad fewer people drink under influence, but they drink larger quantities.

In the Netherlands 29.6% of drivers had consumed alcohol, but in Lithuania the figure fell to 17.7%.

Many Belgian drivers involved in serious accidents had also smoked cannabis. 9.9% of those tested, proved to be positive.

The Belgian Transport Secretary Etienne Schouppe (Flemish Christian democrat) recognises the problem and, like the researchers, says that the chance of being caught should be increased: "Drivers should be breathalysed whenever the police carry out checks. We need a change in mentality. People who drive should not drink. Belgians still haven't got the message."

The Belgian Transport Secretary is also considering increasing fines.