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The need for sobriety checkpoints

Drunk driving is one of Sweden’s biggest traffic problems. In order to fight it, a pilot project with automatic sobriety checkpoints is now carried out in Frihamnen, Stockholm. The Stena Line Germany Terminal in Gothenburg was the first ferry terminal in this project, with focus on heavy vehicles. The objective with the project in Frihamnen, Stockholm, is to check all vehicles arriving with the ferries.

Voices about drunk driving and the new sobriety checkpoints

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Drunk-drivers stopped by new efficient technology. Bengt Svensson, Police superintendent, the National Police Board.

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The new technology makes it easy and does not require physical contact with a mouthpiece. Liza Jakobsson, National Coordinator, Sober traffic, the Swedish Transport Administration.

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Interest in alcohol barriers beyond Sweden’s borders. Arne Winerdal, MD at the Swedish Abstaining Motorists’ Association (MHF).

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New alcometers – a revolution for greater safety. Sven Gunnar Olsson, Servotek.

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We believe in this. Jonas Larsen, National Specialist, Drink driving checks, the Swedish Customs.

Drink-drivers stopped by new efficient technology

Interview with Police superintendent Bengt Svensson, the National Police Board.

The use of the new police instrument means that all drivers have to stop at an “alcohol barrier” in the port of Frihamnen, Stockholm. They are asked to blow hard into a funnel. It is easy; you just blow in the same way as when you blow out a candle, with a little air puff. Two seconds later the analysis is ready: above or below the legal limit of 0.10 milligrams of alcohol per litre of exhaled air, or 0.2 parts per thousand in the blood.

In the beginning of September, a full-blown project will start that will stop drunk drivers arriving with the ferries from driving out from the port onto the Swedish roads. Police superintendent Bengt Svensson, who has the highest responsibility for traffic safety in Sweden, feels confident with the new technology when the pilot project with automatic sobriety checkpoints begins at the end of the summer of 2014. The effect of the new sobriety checkpoints should be obvious, he says.

– No driver driving under the influence of alcohol will be able get past this checkpoint, states Bengt Svensson.

The reliability of these new alcotests with advanced infrared technology is conclusive, and they show very good results, Svensson points out. The Swedish National Laboratory of Forensic Science has, after thorough controls, come to the conclusion that the new measuring technology is of high quality and gives exact results. But already before the test period starts in a few weeks, Svensson is looking forward to the next step.

– Our main objective is to be able to check all vehicles, including passenger cars.

The pilot project with automatic sobriety checkpoints will go on for a number of months, and the aim is to check all drivers. Svensson believes that the new efficient and reliable sobriety testing will also have a preventive effect as there will be information on board the ferries letting the passengers know that all drivers will have to pass an alcotest in the port before hitting the roads.

– It would be a great mistake for a driver to drink too much alcohol and then drive off the ferry into the port knowing that there is an automatic sobriety checkpoint in the port. Hopefully they will be sensible enough to stay sober, says Bengt Svensson.

The pilot project with sobriety checkpoints in Frihamnen, Stockholm, is a cooperation between public authorities such as the Police, the Swedish Customs, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Coast Guard, and the technology company Servotek, and, not least, the Swedish Abstaining Motorists’ Association (MHF), which has taken the initiative to and runs the project. The project is also supported by by the Swedish Transport Administration, which partly finances it.

– In pilot schemes such as this one, there must be enthusiasts like the project leader Tomas Jonsson at MHF, but also people who act as a break, like me. You need to meet halfway. The cooperation has run smoothly, police superintendent Bengt Svensson notes.

– In Sweden we are fairly good at cooperation between public authorities and non-governmental organizations, while many of our international contacts are not used to our ways of working and are therefore surprised by our cooperation.

People may be worried that the sobriety checkpoint will create long car queues in the port, but this does not worry Bengt Svensson. After the pilot project in Gothenburg, we know how long it takes to drive off the ferry and out from the port. The traffic situation right outside Frihamnen, Stockholm, slows traffic down before it reaches the highway. This makes it possible for us to check all vehicles without delaying them.

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The new technology makes it easy and does not require physical contact with a mouthpiece.

Interview with Liza Jakobsson, National Coordinator, Sober traffic, the Swedish Transport Administration.

– The next generation technology for measuring a driver’s alcohol level is undoubtedly the infrared technology that is now being used in the project with automatic sobriety checkpoints. The development has contributed to the smooth and fast technology of high quality that is now entering into different systems. It is a great thing, a good solution complementing alcohol interlocks and other sobriety promoting measures, says Liza Jakobsson, National coordinator of Sober traffic at the Swedish Transport Administration.

When the ferries arrive at Frihamnen, Stockholm, they have to be emptied of 20–30 trucks and 200–300 passenger cars in 30–45 minutes. Before the drivers reach the sobriety checkpoint, the vehicles from two lanes will be divided into six lanes for the automatic sobriety check, and then merged into one lane. Won’t there be traffic jams?

– We believe that this will not be a problem, but that it will run smoothly. The traffic from the ferries usually slows down before it leaves the port area, as the arriving vehicles are to share the space with the Stockholm traffic. This means that we will have time to check all drivers, says Liza Jakobsson.

– The new technology makes it easy and does not require physical contact with a mouthpiece. The drivers will instead blow light puffs of air into a funnel. Two seconds later there will be a result: above or below the legal limit of 0.10 milligrams of alcohol per litre of exhaled air, or 0.2 parts per thousand in the blood.

Seven years ago, a 46-year-old Hungarian truck driver drove off the ferry in Trelleborg. With a blood alcohol content of almost 2.0 parts per thousand, he drove the 30,000 kg heavy truck towards Malmö. On the wrong side of the road!

The drive ended in a head-on collision. Mum, dad and the two children, Elliot 17 days old and Teodor 19 months old, were killed instantly, and another person too was killed. The question is whether the tragic catastrophe could have been avoided with the infrared technology that will now be used in Frihamnen, Stockholm.

– Absolutely, says Liza Jakobsson. If all drivers had been checked, he would not have been able to leave the port area with such a high level of alcohol in his blood, Liza Jakobsson says with emphasis. Through information about the automatic sobriety checkpoints before and during the voyage, we hope to prompt discussion and raise awareness of what is now going on in the port. Drivers who have passed the checkpoint will then tell others about the system.

The whole project reflects good cooperation between different public authorities and other participants for improved road safety. What is important with this measure is saving lives and preventing accidents with seriously injured people.

The project is carried out as a cooperation between the Police, the Customs, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Coast Guard, the technology company Servotek, and, not least, the Swedish Abstaining Motorists’ Association (MHF), which leads the project. The project is part-financed by the Swedish Transport Administration.

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Interest in alcohol barriers beyond Sweden’s borders

Interview with Arne Winerdal, MD at the Swedish Abstaining Motorists’ Association (MHF).

– Our widely noted project with alcohol barriers in the port of Gothenburg in 2013 shows that the system works: traffic flows smoothly through the checkpoint, the measurement is made quickly and accurately, and if someone leaves a positive test there will soon be staff at the checkpoint to take legal proceedings against those driving under the influence of alcohol.

Arne Winerdal, CEO at the MHF, notes that reactions are mostly positive now that the alcohol barriers are taken into use in Frihamnen, Stockholm.

Every day 20–30 trucks and 200–300 passenger cars will be checked in the automatic sobriety checkpoints in Frihamnen, Stockholm, when they drive off the ferries. The pilot project in Gothenburg in 2013 showed that the traffic flow was not affected by the automatic sobriety checkpoint.

It looks so simple when a car passes through the checkpoint. The driver gives a breath test, and after a few seconds the sobriety check is completed and the bar is raised so the car can be let through.

– There are several years of development work behind this technology. We cooperate with a company in southern Sweden, Servotek AB, which has invented this fast and accurate control technology. Thanks to infrared beams and computer power, the sobriety tests can run this smoothly.

The MHF has met with positive reactions from the transport industry, driver organizations, the Government, and different authorities after the launch of the automatic sobriety checkpoints.

– The driver organization Motormännens Riksförbund, which has 110,000 members, gave us an award for this approach. No one wants to let drunk drivers onto the Swedish roads when they drive off a ferry, says Arne Winerdal.

– We have recently been in touch with all political parties in the Swedish Parliament. They all like the MHF’s automatic sobriety checkpoints, says Winerdal.

The MHF’s goal is to install alcohol barriers in all Swedish ferry berths as soon as the trial period in Frihamnen, Stockholm, is over at the turn of the year 2014/2015.

– This way more lives will be saved on the Swedish roads. Even if only one out of 170 drivers in Gothenburg drove under the influence of alcohol, it still means a lot to traffic safety to stop them from driving.

Through the MHF’s influencing of public opinion throughout the years, the number of people killed in traffic because of alcohol has been reduced considerably. Today about 60 people are killed every year due to drunk driving.

– This means that one person dies in vain every week.

This problem is even bigger in the rest of Europe. Every year about 6,000 people in the EU are killed due to drunk driving.

– The Swedish project with alcohol barriers has received much attention from traffic safety experts in Brussels. In the autumn of 2014, they will visit Frihamnen, Stockholm, to see how the alcohol barriers work in practice.

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A new alcometer – a revolution for greater safety

Interview with Sven Gunnar Olsson, Servotek.

The act of blowing into an alcometer faces a revolution. Sven Gunnar Olsson, founder of Servotek, has designed a breath-testing device that makes the process easier, faster, and more reliable. At the end of the summer, it will be installed with the alcohol barrier in the port of Frihamnen, Stockholm. In the future it may be used at vulnerable workplaces and at large events.

Sven Gunnar Olsson is the father of the modern respirator and was, thanks to that, appointed honorary doctor of medicine. The knowledge that he gained then led to the new alcometer that will be introduced with the alcohol barrier in Frihamnen, Stockholm. A breath test that only takes a few seconds.

When the drivers leave the ferry, they pass a barrier equipped with Servotek’s alcometer, where the driver will leave a breath test (see picture). The testing only takes a few seconds. With the new technology, a light puff of air is enough. You do not even have to have physical contact with a mouthpiece. If the driver is sober, the barrier will open.

If someone has too high an alcohol level on their breath, another test will be taken using the police’s evidential breath testing instrument. The new measuring method gives a result that is as reliable as a blood sample, says Sven Gunnar Olsson, and points out the advantages:

  •  The instrument makes a more exact measurement of the degree of intoxication compared with other methods available today.
  • The testing does not require any physical contact or effort, and no spare parts.
  • One instrument can analyze up to 600 people/hour.
  • The measurements are completely automatized and can be made without assistance.
  • The test results can be shown at the scene of the testing and/or at a distant position.

There is not enough room here to explain the whole method, but the technology is based on the fact that the analyzer starts out from the correspondence between alcohol and water rather than from absolute concentrations in its calculations. As alcohol and water are affected equally by interfering factors such as temperature, the final result is not affected and is therefore very stable.

Will be taken into use in September
For a long time, MHF has pursued the idea of alcohol barriers and towards the end of the summer the alcohol barriers will be taken into use, this time in Stockholm, using Servotek’s technology. Sven Gunnar Olsson sees great opportunities and areas of use for the future.

– This is a safety issue for all people, he says. The measuring instrument can be used in vulnerable workplaces, such as airports, for both pilots and passengers.

– The method is already being used by a number of public transport companies and is an alternative to the alcohol interlock, which needs maintenance, changing, and calibration.

– It can also be used at large events with many people. That would mean a lot to safety, Sven Gunnar Olsson notes.

– A revolution to better safety.

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We believe in this

Interview with Jonas Larsen, National Specialist, Drink driving checks, the Swedish Customs.

-I believe very much in this new technology. This test, where you blow a light puff of air into a funnel and get the result in 2-3 seconds, is a real revolution compared to the technology used today, says Jonas Larsen, national specialist at drink driving checks at the Swedish Customs.

There are high expectations among the public authorities, organizations, and companies behind the project with the automatic alcotest in Frihamnen, Stockholm, which will start in the late summer. This will be interesting, as this time all vehicles will be checked. If the project works out the way it is expected to, the intention is to introduce automatic alcotests in all Swedish ports.

– We believe in this, says Jonas Larsson, and points to the fact that there will be much information on board the ferries about the automatic sobriety control that the drivers will reach when they have left the ferry.

– It may not be perfect from the beginning, but in that case we will refine the test, says Larsen.

– The test means that the drivers will have to blow into a funnel for 2-3 seconds. That will be enough. It sounds great compared to today’s technology, which means that you have to blow into an instrument and empty your lungs of air. The new technology makes the procedure much easier. It also seems to be very reliable, Larsen notes.

The Swedish Abstaining Motorists’ Association runs the project, but the main responsibility is with the Police. Even though Jonas Larsen at the Swedish Customs thinks that the automatic sobriety control is a very good project, he does not jump to conclusions in any way. He believes that there are still some question marks, such as to see what the consequences will be of there not being any staff around documenting the vehicles leaving the port.

– The project will have a large preventive effect, as the drivers will know that everyone has to give an alcotest. Larsen believes that this is what will have the biggest impact.

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Facts on drunk driving in Sweden

  • Every day there are more than 12,000 drunk drivings – approximately 4.6 million in a year.
  • In some ports, drunk driving is twice as common as on the roads in general.
  • In some ports, the situation is that bad that every 62nd driver tested is arrested for drunk driving or aggravated drunk driving.
  • Every week one to two people are killed because of drunk driving.
  • Every year more than 1,000 people are seriously wounded because of drunk driving.

What do you think?
How did you find the sobriety checkpoint in Frihamnen, Stockholm? Please click on the link and fill in the evaluation questionnaire. You can also find this questionnaire on board the ferries. As thanks for your help, you can win a one-year subscription to the magazine Motorföraren.

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