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Monday, April 9, 2012

The Drink Driving Situation in Colombia

To describe and analyze the drink driving situation in Colombia.

Methods: The assessment was based on semistructured interviews of key stakeholders and analysis of secondary data.

Results: Road traffic crashes caused 5704 deaths and injured 39,318 people in 2010. The 3 main sources of crash data—forensic authorities, traffic authorities, and motor vehicle insurance agencies—provide different information about crashes, drivers, and victims, but they cannot be routinely merged. This together with the problem of identifying alcohol as the cause of a crash makes it difficult to estimate the role of drink driving in road crashes. In addition, reliable figures for the incidence of drink driving are not available from the random breath test programs because of sampling issues, underreporting, and missing data on negative results. However, it can be argued that alcohol plays a role in fatalities, because the proportion of crashes involving fatalities rises on weekends and between 12:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m. when drink driving is likely to occur. Colombia has strict drink-drive laws that specify 3 levels of offense and sanctions (level I: 40– 99 mg/100 mL, level II: 100–149 mg/100 mL, and level III: 150 mg/100 mL or above). Drivers responsible for causing crashes with fatalities and injuries can be imprisoned under criminal law and sentences are increased by 50 to 100 percent if they test positive for alcohol. Enforcement includes random breath testing for alcohol, but its impact is weakened by the lack of a legal requirement to submit to a test and poor implementation of sanctions. There have been mass media campaigns against drink driving including one linked to a major enforcement initiative in 2008. However, there was a consensus that most campaigns were not focused sufficiently on increasing drivers’ perceived risk of being caught. According to those interviewed, campaigns aimed at responsible consumption and the use of designated drivers appear to have had a growing positive effect, but these impacts have not been empirically assessed. The Road Prevention Fund is a Sui Generis institution in Colombia that has played a key role in tackling the drink driving problem.

Legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits are on a par with international standards and the traffic authorities carry out regular roadside sobriety checks. However, the enforcement is weakened by poor implementation of sanctions. In addition, issues with data mean that the nature and extent of drink driving in Colombia cannot be accurately monitored.

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