The number of deaths in traffic accidents involving alcohol or drugs has risen sharply in recent years. This is evident from figures requested by the NOS from the police. In 2016, 13 people died in an accident caused by a driver under the influence. Last year there were 61.
The actual numbers are very likely higher because substance use research is only done if the person who caused the accident survives. When the driver dies, this usually does not happen because there is no possibility of prosecution.
The number of fatalities in traffic accidents where the driver who causes the accident is under the influence and survives the accident:
With the exception of the corona years 2020 and 2021, the number of fatalities has increased every year since 2016. “Those years were traffic-calmed because of corona,” says Paul Broer, traffic portfolio holder at the National Police. “When you compare 2022 to 2019, we see a significant increase.”
Not only has the number of victims increased, the number of fatal accidents has also increased. According to the police, there were a total of 38 fatal traffic accidents with a driver under the influence in 2019, in 2022 there were 51.
More drugs and alcohol on the road
At the end of last year it was already known that the number of fines and driving bans for driving under the influence increased by 34 percent after the corona period, while they were no longer checked. “Apparently these people overestimate themselves or underestimate the dangers,” says Broer.
According to the police, about 43,000 people will be ticketed for driving under the influence in 2022. Of these, 25,000 had drunk too much and 18,000 were under the influence of drugs, mainly cannabis.
The police have not investigated why there is more driving under the influence. The scientific institute for road safety research, SWOV, also has no answer. “Research is being done into the use of alcohol in traffic, but it is not asked why the person started driving anyway,” says spokesman Patrick Rugebregt of SWOV. No comparable research has yet been carried out for drug use.
The Central Bureau for Proving Driving Skills lets people experience in a simulator what it’s like to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Research shows that both police checks and the alcolock are effective measures to reduce driving under the influence. But in the case of drug use, the alcolock is of no use to you. Enforcement is therefore the most important thing, emphasizes Rugebregt. “Alcohol crashes are reduced by 17 percent if alcohol checks are used regularly, research shows.”
The police stopped using the large alcohol traps more than five years ago because it was shared on social media in no time where the police stood. “But even though the police catch few people here, the warning is felt by everyone,” he emphasizes.
But the police do not see checks as a campaign tool, Broer emphasises. “It is intended as enforcement. And we try to use those controls as effectively as possible. Short-term and flexible.”
Since the introduction of the saliva test in 2017, the police are increasingly discovering drug use in traffic. This test is administered less often than the breathalyzer test. “This has to do with the fact that the saliva test is a greater violation of physical integrity,” explains Broer.
“The police may take that test if the driver appears to be under the influence and tests negative in the breathalyzer test. For example, if the person talks confusedly or has large pupils.”
The alcolock, with which the car can only be started after a negative breathalyzer test, has also been proven to be effective. After people have had to use such a lock, the chance that they will again drink behind the wheel has decreased by 50 percent.
The measure was abolished in 2015 because the Council of State and the Supreme Court ruled that it was too drastic and took too little account of the personal circumstances of the director. Moreover, the motorists themselves paid for the costs of having the lock installed, at the time about 5000 euros.
But last month, Minister Harbers announced that he would investigate whether the lock can be reintroduced after all.
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