Representatives of the state sector, for example senator of the Czech parliament Jiří Žák, member of the Polish parliament and assistant director of the Parliamentary Committee on Safety in Transportation, Michal Szczerba, and the director of the Traffic Police in the Czech Republic, Leoš Tržil, participated in the discussion. The Government Council for Drug Policy Coordination was represented by the director, Kamil Kalina. Specialists from the not-for-profit sector also contributed to the discussion. The head of the BECEP project of the Ministry of Transportation from the Slovak Republic, Tatjana Kelcová, accepted the invitation, together with the Czech Transport Research Centre, represented by the director of the Division of Safety and Transport Engineering, Jindřich Frič. Some of the specialists also included doctors, specifically the dean of the 1. British Faculty of Medicine in Prague, Tomáš Zima, and a specialist in the field of electronic health care, Pavel Kubů. The commercial sector was represented by Gabor Garamszegi, European director of Corporate Relations of SABMiller, one of the biggest beer companies in the world.
Current European Legislature
The European Commission suggested to all EU member countries to set the maximum legal blood alcohol level at 0.5 mg/ml. The European Union did not set a unified limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers; it merely urges member states to continuously decrease the legal blood alcohol level if their limit is set at 0.8 %. In the majority of EU countries the maximum allowed level of alcohol is 0.5 %, while some countries passed additional limitations for certain groups of drivers (underage drivers, drivers who recently got their driver's licence, drivers of public transit and others).
Will repression be enough together with zero tolerance?
Jindřich Frič, director of the Division of Safety and Transportation Engineering of the Transport Research Centre in the Czech Republic, stated statistics: “More than 20% of Czech drivers during the last three years had to take one or several breathing tests to detect the presence of alcohol in the blood. This share is below average in the international context. Checks of blood alcohol level are not as widespread as they are, for example, in Finland, where close to 65% of drivers were tested, more than half of them more than once. According to our surveys, more than 90% of Czechs demand stricter punishments for higher levels than the maximum set by law.”
In 2001 the EU set a goal to decrease the number of fatalities from traffic accidents by 2010 to half the amount of fatalities from 2001. “In 2001–2007 the biggest contributors to achieving this goal were France, Portugal, and Luxembourg. If this development continues in the coming years, these countries will reach the EU goal even before 2010. Among other successful countries are Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, in which the EU goal can be met by 2013. The Czech Republic is in a group of countries, in which the date of completion of the goal is being pushed back by more than 10 years,” says Jindřich Frič. All three states with the best results have the legal blood alcohol level set at 0.5%.
Out of 25 EU member states, four countries allow no alcohol in the blood while driving. They are from the former Eastern bloc (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania). In Poland, where the limit is set at 0.2%, the number of accidents caused by driving under the influence together with the number of fatalities decreased by about a half in the past 20 years. This shows that a so-called zero-tolerance policy is by itself not the only way to fight against driving under the influence, but there are more effective factors, which we should focus on and work with.
Michal Szcerba from the Polish Parliamentary Committee for Transportation Safety supported this assertion by stating facts from our neighbours: “We cooperate with the Government Agency for Prevention of Problems with Alcohol, with the State Committee for Traffic Safety, with the Association of Abstinence in the Transportation Sector and lastly with representatives of the commercial sector. Equally important are social campaigns and of course breath checks. The decrease in the number of traffic accidents caused by drivers driving under the influence is due to cooperation between many organisations which operate in various areas.”
Who should cooperate and how should they cooperate in the fight against alcohol behind the wheel
Jiří Richter, Executive Director of SANANIM, o.s., which is the largest non-governmental organisation in the Czech Republic offering services in prevention and therapy for addiction, including alcoholism, sees this clearly: “I see cooperation between public and commercial subjects as key. However, I would not like to put them only in the position of financial contributors. We need equal partners, who can supervise and be present where eyes and ties of one Czech non-governmental organisation do not have access – under the cover of traffic research, under the surface of social responsibility of alcohol products and lastly between the lines of text from Czech and European policies and directives dealing with alcohol.”
Gabor Garamszegi represents beer products from SABMiller, which owns Plzeňský Prazdroj. He definitely agrees that breweries should take part in solving problems of irresponsible consumption of beer, especially in the Czech Republic. “Prosecution of irresponsible alcohol consumption is the right thing to do and it sends out a clear business model. Breweries not only produce beer, but also build a reputation for their brands. Irresponsible use of products from their brands would tarnish their names and their values. Specifically SABMiller, and here in the Czech Republic Plzeňský Prazdroj, can effectively contribute: we have a lot of experience and knowledge and a wide sphere of influence, which we can use thanks to our chain of distribution and thanks to our consumers. Furthermore, we promote our brands with responsible means and lastly, we believe that our employees should also be ambassadors of responsible consumption in their circle of influence. As one of the world leaders in beer production we want to be an example to our sector also in this regard,” he stated.
Tatjana Kelcová, from BECEP, the Slovak union of the Czech BESIP, positively evaluated current good cooperation of the Topvar breweries with large insurance companies. “The biggest benefit could be the cooperation of more groups – not only producers of alcoholic drinks and distributors. Support should come mainly from the political level,” she added.
Jindřich Frič from CDV mentioned the meaning of the role of a passenger – for example, if it's a woman, then the driver has a lesser tendency to consume alcohol before driving.
Based on discussions, other partners in helping to solve the problem of alcohol behind the wheel could be insurance companies, clinics and car manufacturers, because an alcohol lock in cars is today seen as an efficient tool.
Common projects, which are already in place
During the meeting, organisers also presented results from a unique service, which through SMS, WAP or the Internet informs the driver about the approximate level of alcohol in his/her blood together with the time when his/her alcohol level will be at zero. This service, inspired by Finish counterparts, has been operating in the Czech Republic (under the name Promile INFO), in Slovakia and in Poland. This is an exemplary form of cooperation of not-for-profit organisations and breweries from the SABMiller group, which takes credit mainly for the mass promotion of this service among consumers of beer.
Civic association SANANIM
The civic association SANANIM is one of the oldest in the Czech Republic (established in 1990) and today it is also the biggest provider of non-governmental services in the field of prevention, care, treatment and integration of addicts addicted to non-alcoholic drugs. Currently it runs 11 main institutions – field programmes, a Contact Centre, Specialised Outpatient Services CADAS, a daycare centre, the therapeutic communities Karlov and Němčice, an aftercare centre with apartments and a workshop, a drug information centre, the Centre for People in Conflict with the Law, an agency for employment and social services, a consulting room for parents – and offers a variety of additional projects and programmes. Some of the most important ones include telematic and information services (drug information centre, Promile INFO, Alkotest etc.), the field programme for the Roma and a programme for mothers with children. Other projects focus mainly on education, primary prevention, publication of articles and international cooperation.
Plzeňský Prazdroj as a responsible beer producer
Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s. is actively taking part in the prevention of negative consequences of excessive or of unacceptable consumption of alcohol, and helps to promote a responsible approach to alcohol consumption, whether it be individually or as part of the Initiative of Responsible Breweries. With total sales of 10.7 million hectolitres in the 2008 calendar year (including licenced production abroad) and with exports to more than 50 countries, Plzeňský Prazdroj a. s., is the leading producer of beer in the Czech Republic and the biggest exporter of Czech beer. Plzeňský Prazdroj is a member of the SABMiller PLC, one of the world's largest beer companies.