Drivers of minibuses, buses, taxis and chauffeur-driven cars would be barred from drinking any alcohol at all while on duty under a proposal to tackle drunk-driving.
The radical proposal is one of several measures listed in the National Alcohol Policy released yesterday by the Family Ministry.
Drunk-driving is one of the priority areas tackled by the policy, which is open for public consultation.
The current national alcohol limit for motorists is 0.8g of alcohol per litre of blood. The policy is suggesting this threshold be brought down to 0.5g per litre – equivalent to a small beer – but slashed to zero for drivers carrying passengers against payment.
The policy also suggests the introduction of a stricter 0.2g per litre limit for motorists who have held a driving licence for less than two years.
The lower limit (0.2g/l) would also apply to motorcyclists and drivers of vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes or carrying dangerous goods. Malta’s current alcohol limit for motorists is among the highest in Europe, where the average is of 0.5g per litre.
Concerns about drunk driving peaked this summer as the number of fatal roadside accidents since the beginning of the year jumped up.
In August, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also voiced his concern and said the government was committed to tackling the matter and to introducing “draconian” measures.
With the aim of reducing the numbers that may in turn resort to the harmful use of alcohol and its consequences
Police figures show that this year 139 motorists tested positive when asked to undertake a breathalyser test.
The policy suggests harsher penalties for drink-driving offences but stops short of indicating what they should be. It does intimate at one point the withdrawal of the driving licence.
“The punishment meted out to those who transgress… [should have] an effective deterrent effect while ensuring that the driving licence is restored only when efforts have been made to educate or treat errant drivers.”
But it also advocates that the police must be given the authority to carry out frequent and random breathalyser testing.
Tackling underage drinking is another objective of the policy, although proposals on this aspect are less detailed.
It kicks off with the mandatory “enforce legislation to tangibly limit” the sale, purchase and consumption of alcohol to people under 17 years and continues with suggesting harsher penalties for sellers in breach of the law.
The policy proposes that alcoholic products sold in supermarkets and retail stores be sectioned off from other products.
The policy also suggests prohibiting the distribution of free alcohol-related merchandise, including branded items like T-shirts and caps, to minors.
But the policy also aims to achieve a general reduction in alcohol consumption. It notes that while most countries in southern Europe have seen a reduction in per capita consumption over the years, Malta’s has remained the same. In 2014, Maltese consumed an average of 8.5 litres of alcohol each.
“This policy is an attempt to reduce per capita consumption with the aim of reducing the numbers that may in turn resort to the harmful use of alcohol and its consequences.”
It suggests servers in bars be given compulsory training as a prelude to making them liable for consequences of inappropriate practice such as serving drunk people.
The policy says excessive consumption of alcohol at events where the likelihood of violence may escalate should be restricted.
Alcohol abuse policies should also be mandatory at the work place.
The public consultation period on the policy is open until November 17 and it can be downloaded from the Family Ministry website.
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