Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Zero tolerance for drunk driving

On June 20th a new law took effect that reduces the alcohol limit in a driver’s system from 0.6 decigrams to 0.2 decigrams. That means even one beer puts a driver over the limit. People are not happy. Well – drinkers are not happy. Everyone else is hoping it makes a positive impact.

Drivers in Brazil are already famous for flaunting nearly every law of the road you can think of. A two lane road fills with three columns of traffic if people feel the car in front of them is moving too slowly. Drivers pass in no-passing zones ALL THE TIME. It seems no one uses their turn signal to indicate they are changing lanes. Speed limits are for sissies. Most folks seem to have skipped the auto safety class that encouraged them to drive a reasonable and safe distance behind the vehicle in front of them (even at high speeds!) It’s crazy out there.

Deaths by drunk drivers are shocking in number. Approximately 36,000 people die in traffic deaths each year in Brazil. Of that a full 45% are due to drunk drivers. These numbers are actually relatively similar to the US where about 42,600 people die in traffic accidents and about 39% are alcohol related.

It is not uncommon here to see a sale on 12 packs of beer at gas stations.

The new law has already resulted in 25% less alcohol sales in Rio de Janeiro. Folks are freaked.

The news a few days ago included a Catholic priest complaining about the new law because he could not celebrate mass in one church, then drive to another to celebrate another mass without being at risk of a drunk driving ticket.

The fine for your first offense is R$955 (US$597), one year suspension of driving privileges and possible vehicle impounding. If the driver’s blood alcohol tops 0.6 decimeters s/he is arrested.

I’ve started a savings account for taxi fare!

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