Dutch government working on tougher approach to driving under the influence of alcohol

The Dutch government wants to adopt a much tougher approach to drink-driving. In a letter to the House of Representatives, Ferdinand Grapperhaus (Minister of Justice and Security) and Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management) write that they intend to implement a set of measures. For instance, they would like to be able to more swiftly impose a driving ban on those driving over the legal alcohol limit and deal with drink-drivers more firmly.

Driving under the influence of alcohol endangers road safety. In 2017, over 17,000 drivers were apprehended with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.8 or more. The Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV) estimated that there were 75–140 fatalities on the road in 2015 as a consequence of driving under the influence of alcohol. The Dutch government’s aim is to reduce the number of drink-drivers, which will also reduce the number of people killed or injured in road accidents as well.
 
To achieve this, Grapperhaus has formulated a legislative proposal to increase the maximum penalties for serious traffic offences, including driving under the influence. A consultation is to be held on this legislative proposal this week.
 
In consultation with the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (CBR: Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen), Van Nieuwenhuizen will be lowering the limit for the fitness to drive test. For experienced drivers the limit is currently set at 1.8‰ and this might be lowered to 1.3‰. For drivers who have previously been caught, the limit might be lowered from 1.3‰ to 1.0‰. The lower the limit, the more likely it is that a driver’s licence will be revoked and the faster he will face a driving ban. The plan is currently being fleshed out and will be implemented this spring.

 

Administrative and criminal law

The Dutch government wants to adopt a much tougher approach to drink-driving. In a letter to the House of Representatives, Ferdinand Grapperhaus (Minister of Justice and Security) and Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management) write that they intend to implement a set of measures. For instance, they would like to be able to more swiftly impose a driving ban on those driving over the legal alcohol limit and deal with drink-drivers more firmly.
 
Driving under the influence of alcohol endangers road safety. In 2017, over 17,000 drivers were apprehended with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.8 or more. The Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV) estimated that there were 75–140 fatalities on the road in 2015 as a consequence of driving under the influence of alcohol. The Dutch government’s aim is to reduce the number of drink-drivers, which will also reduce the number of people killed or injured in road accidents as well.
 
To achieve this, Grapperhaus has formulated a legislative proposal to increase the maximum penalties for serious traffic offences, including driving under the influence. A consultation is to be held on this legislative proposal this week.
 
In consultation with the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (CBR: Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen), Van Nieuwenhuizen will be lowering the limit for the fitness to drive test. For experienced drivers the limit is currently set at 1.8‰ and this might be lowered to 1.3‰. For drivers who have previously been caught, the limit might be lowered from 1.3‰ to 1.0‰. The lower the limit, the more likely it is that a driver’s licence will be revoked and the faster he will face a driving ban. The plan is currently being fleshed out and will be implemented this spring.
 
Administrative and criminal law
In addition, the ministers are proposing measures to enhance the effectiveness of the measures and sanctions and to simplify the system of administrative and criminal law. In that regard, proposals include having the serious traffic offences recidivism regulations lapse, because they make the system exceedingly complex and their effectiveness is limited, particularly if the fitness to drive test limit is to be lowered.
 
It is being investigated whether driving licences could be declared invalid for reasons other than a fitness to drive test result, for example by granting courts the authority to revoke driving licences. Another avenue being explored is whether it would be possible to give courts the option of declaring a driving ban immediately enforceable, thereby preventing the person concerned from continuing to drive whilst an appeal is under way.
 
Furthermore, it is being proposed that the system be set up in such a way that the administrative process is complete (or as complete as possible) prior to the case being prosecuted. This will ensure that criminal court judges will know whether the driver concerned has already been required to undergo a fitness to drive test and whether or not he passed this test, enabling them to assess whether or not they can impose any additional suitable and effective penalty.
 
The Supreme Court and the Council of State’s Administrative Jurisdiction Division previously found that the ignition interlock device programme could no longer be used within the compass of administrative law. Further research has revealed that introducing the ignition interlock device into criminal law produces very little added value, because judges are expected to mandate use of the ignition interlock device in only a limited number of cases. Moreover, there are other disadvantages of including the ignition interlock device in criminal law. For example, a fact sheet from SWOV shows that the effect of the ignition interlock device on recidivism is limited to the duration of the programme. Neither is the ignition interlock device system watertight. An extra hurdle is put in the way of drink-driving, but it cannot prevent people who are over the limit from using another vehicle or getting someone else to blow into the breathalyser.
 
Preference is being given to the measures cited above. The Dutch government is also eagerly awaiting the trial with the so-called Alcohol Meter. The Alcohol Meter continuously measures alcohol usage. It is linked to the alcohol ban, one of the special conditions courts are entitled to impose in the case of a sanction imposed conditionally after an offence has been committed under the influence of alcohol. The trial will run to the end of 2018. Initial experiences show that the Alcohol Meter does indeed foster a behavioural change in terms of abstaining from alcohol.

Ministry responsible