TISPOL is committed to reducing death, serious injury and crime on Europe's roads. Its activities are guided by research, intelligence, information and experience, to produce measurable results that contribute to reducing casualties and making roads safer.

TISPOL Alcohol & Drugs Driving Policy Document

TISPOL Alcohol & Drug Driving Working Group



Please see the downloadable file of the Drug & Alcohol Driving Policy Paper at the bottom of this page.

By downloading the document to view, this will allow you to see the complete information reference points and graphic representations used to compile the report

The document was updated on the 4th of October 2012 and can be downloaded a pdf. file below. A German version is also available for download below at the bottom of this page.



 1.     Introduction. 3

2.     Traffic Safety in Europe. 4

3.     Alcohol and drug driving as a risk factor from a scientific view.. 5

3.1 Risk and presence of alcohol 5

3.2 Risk and presence of drugs. 6

4.     Prevention. 8

4.1 A Two-fold approach - combining preventative measures and enforcement to reduce drink and drug driving on Europe’s roads. 8

4.2 Alcohol 9

4.3 Drugs. 9

5.     Enforcement 11

5.1 Effect of alcohol driving detection. 11

5.1.1 Roadside random alcohol testing 12

5.2 Effect of drugs driving detection. 12

5.2.1 Roadside random drug testing 13

6.     Technical devices/Engineering. 13

6.1 Enforcement on the roads – Screening devices. 13

6.2 Enforcement on the roads - Evidential instruments. 14

6.3 Tools to detect impairment 14

6.4 Alcohol ignition interlock. 14

6.5 Drug-lock. 15

7.     Recommendations. 15

Prevention. 15

7.1 Evaluation Procedure. 15

7.2 High Risk Offenders. 16

7.3 Education and Publicity. 16

Legislation. 16

7.4 Lower Drink Drive Limit 16

7.5 A Lower Legal Limit for Novice and Professional Drivers. 16

7.6 Wider Police Powers to Test without Prior Suspicion. 16

7.7 Psychoactive substances. 17

Enforcement 17

7.8 Enforcement as a key issue. 17

Technical devices. 18

7.9 Legal substances. 18

7.10 Evidential roadside breath testing for alcohol 18

7.11 Evidence for drug driving. 18

7.12 Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIIDs) 18

Prosecution. 19

7.13 Penalties for Offenders. 19

7.14 Disqualification Periods (alcohol) 19

7.15 Disqualification Periods (other psychoactive substances) 19

7.16 Immediate Licence Confiscation. 19

8.     TISPOL recommendations in a nutshell 21


1.      Introduction


TISPOL, as a European Traffic Police Network, provides with this policy document a European standard to fight against all psychoactive substances, which are dangerous for road safety when driving under the influence of these substances.


In this document TISPOL outlines the best practices to reduce the problem of driving under influence (DUI). Some of these practices are already used in some countries, but differences between legal frameworks, strategic planning, tactical deployment and administrative issues concerning road traffic enforcement in European countries are still enormously wide[1].


The scientific and police knowledge contained in the TISPOL policy document provides a clear and continued reduction of road deaths on European roads caused by impaired drivers. TISPOL’s main goal is to set out the best possible toolkit for optimal legislation, preventative measures and technical equipment for police services and to make all drivers have a belief that drinking and driving and use of psychoactive substances will lead to detection and severe sanctions.


The main emphasis in this document is on enforcement. It is widely recognised that enhanced enforcement is often the only (and cost effective) way to achieve substantial improvement in road safety within a relatively short period[2]. For long lasting results Europe needs a more coherent approach to solve this problem. This is also spelled out by the European Commission, which encourages Member States to intensify and harmonise their efforts in this field in order to promote the achievement of the current road safety goals[3].


The task is challenging. Currently countries have differences with Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits and lists of psychoactive substances, both legal and illicit. Most countries have random breath testing powers, but some don’t. For drugs most countries have an impairment approach and some countries have a list of substances that are not allowed to be used by drivers of vehicles above a certain level. In practice this means that any detectable amount of such a substance after laboratory analysis is punishable. Most countries have their own procedure to conclude that a driver is impaired. Often it is up to the police officer to determine a suspicion that a driver is unable to safely drive a vehicle. On the other hand some countries have a so called zero-tolerance[4] for a number of psychoactive substances. In some countries oral fluid testing to screen for specific psychoactive substances (legal and illicit) is enough to have suspicion. In a few other countries, legislation demands a urine screening test to detect the presence of these substances in the system of the driver. In most EU-member states evidence is provided by the analysis of the blood sample of the suspected driver. Differences with the equipment used and specifications of crucial issues of the legal system also exist in European countries. The list of these differences could easily be continued. These differences constitute challenges for harmonisation especially related to European cross-border enforcement.


2.     Traffic Safety in Europe


Traffic crashes killed around 30 500 persons in the 27 EU-countries in 2011 and there were around 1,5 million people injured in Europe. Social costs of road crashes are estimated at 130 billion per year in Europe. [5] Traffic crashes are the main cause of death for people under 45 years of age and one out of 3 inhabitants of Europe will be hospitalized during their life because of a traffic crash.


The European Commission has estimated in 2004 that at the time when there was more than 40,000 road accident fatalities, 11,000 were caused by speeding drivers, 10,000 by drunk drivers and 10,000 car occupants died as they did not wear seat belts or used restraint systems[6]. According to the European Commission’s estimates in 2006 25% of all road deaths across the EU are alcohol related[7]. European Transport Safety Council estimates that 6,500 deaths would have been prevented in 2010 if all drivers had obeyed the law on drink driving[8]. From these statistics it can be concluded that driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is one of the main factors that increase the risk of road accidents and therefore this phenomena should be taken seriously.


Alcohol remains certainly responsible for more deaths and injuries than drugs, but in certain populations and at certain times and locations, the use of other psychoactive substances does play a significant role in the number and severity of collisions.


TISPOL is aware that there is a great deal to be done in the field of driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive drugs. Implementing improved legislation, an effective prevention action programme, improved police enforcement and effective lawful consequences, could cut down the number of road fatalities. The introduction of reliable screening devices to be used by police officers during enforcement activities to detect psychoactive substances present in the system of the driver is just one of the crucial issues in the area of concern.


European Union has recently taken some measures to reduce the incidence of drink driving. In July 2010 European Commission published the communication “Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020”[9]. The European Commission renewed the target of halving the number of road deaths in the EU between 2010 and 2020. The strategy placed an emphasis on enforcement of road users’ behaviour, including drink driving, stressing the need to match strong penalties for drink driving with preventative measures. The Commission also committed to “examine to what extent measures are appropriate for making the installation of alcohol interlock devices in vehicles compulsory, for example with respect to professional transport (e.g. school buses)”. In an accompanying memo the Commission also stated that it would consider legislative measures to require mandatory use of alcohol interlocks for specific professional cases, such as school buses, or in the framework of rehabilitation programmes (for professional and non-professional drivers) for drink driving offenders. Drugs were not referred to the EC communication paper, which could be construed negatively from a TISPOL perspective.


In September 2011, the European Parliament adopted the report on road safety 2011-2020 in Europe.[10] The European Parliament welcomed the European Commission Policy Orientations but at the same regretted that only some weaker policy orientations were offered and called for the adoption of a full action programme. The European Parliament asked the Commission to prepare proposals for:

1)      an EU-wide harmonised blood alcohol limit

2)      a 0.0g/l limit for novice and professional drivers

3)      the compulsory installation of alcohol interlocks to all new types of commercial passenger and goods; transport vehicles and to the vehicles of road users who already have committed more than one drink-driving conviction


The European Parliament asked the European Commission to present by 2013 a proposal for a Directive for the fitting of alcohol interlocks, including the relevant specifications for its technical implementation. The second of the above measures proposed by the European Parliament would be to modify the EC Recommendation on BAC limits adopted in January 2001, lowering the blood alcohol content for inexperienced drivers and professional drivers from 0.2g/l to zero tolerance.


It should be noted that the European Union (November 2011) adopted a Cross Border Enforcement directive, which will allow the exchange of data between the country in which the offence is committed and the one in which the vehicle is registered. Drink driving was listed as one of the main offences causing death and serious injury in the EU together with speeding, failing to wear seatbelts and failing to stop at traffic lights. Following the implementation of the Directive, drink drivers, driving in a Member State other than the one where the vehicle is registered, will be identified and prosecuted.



3.     Alcohol and drug driving as a risk factor from a scientific view


Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and drug/illicit drug legislation in conjunction with drink and drug driving enforcement and sanctions, are intended to reduce the incidence of drink and drug driving and by doing so to reduce the number of collisions.


There have been many surveys indicating rising BAC and psychoactive substances in the driver’s body system cause an increased risk to be involved in a traffic accident.


3.1 Risk and presence of alcohol

The best estimate about the drink-driving problem in the European traffic flow is that 1-2 % of drivers are above the legal BAC-limit or are impaired.[11] About 25% of all road fatalities in Europe are alcohol related, whereas about only 1% of all kilometres driven in Europe are driven by drivers with 0,5 mg/ml or more alcohol in their blood.


As the BAC in the driver increases, the crash rate also rises. The increase in crash rate that goes with increasing BAC is progressive. Compared to a sober driver the injury crash rate of a driver with a BAC of 0, 8 mg/ml is 2,7 times that of a sober driver. When a driver has a BAC of 1,5 mg/ml his injury crash rate is 22 times that of a sober driver. Not only the crash rate grows rapidly with increasing BAC, but the crash also becomes more severe. With a BAC of 1,5 mg/ml the crash rate for fatal crashes is about 200 times that of sober drivers[12] (see figure 1).


Figure 1: Relative rate for drink drivers to be involved in a crash as their BAC-level increases. The rate of a sober driver is set at 1. Source: Compton  et al, 2002



3.2 Risk and presence of drugs

Research in the area of drugs and driving has been done. But due to, amongst others, ethical requirements, this research is more limited. Only a very limited number of experimental studies are available. Post mortem research and studies on hospitalized injured motorists are only performed in a number of countries. Epidemiological studies are available as well. Based on these studies it can however be concluded that drug driving is a major contributing factor for road accidents with injured and killed persons.


Roadside surveys investigate the prevalence of psychoactive substances in the general driving population. Drivers are randomly stopped and tested for the presence of alcohol, drugs and/or medicines in their body.


Since 1999 there has been eight roadside surveys published[13]. According to these surveys it can be concluded that driving under the influence of drugs is not uncommon and that it can cause a substantial risk to traffic safety.


In most of these studies, the drug that is most frequently detected in the general driving population is cannabis. However, in Australia, methamphetamine was more prevalent, in the UK 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) and 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) were more prevalent than cannabis. The study in Australia only tested for the presence of cannabis and methamphetamine.


Benzodiazepines are the second most prevalent drug/medicine found in drivers in Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands (2000–04) (Assum et al., 2005) and Norway.


Also it was shown that the combination of alcohol and drugs is prevalent in about 0,3% to 1,3% of the general driving population. The percentage of drug-positive drivers ranged from about 1% to 15 %. About 1% to 2% of drivers stopped during roadside surveys tested positive for drugs in oral fluid.[14]


A promising large-scale epidemiological study called DRUID (Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medicines) was started in October 2006 and was completed in 2011. One of its aims was to analyse the prevalence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances in accidents and in the general driving population in 19 different European countries[15]. TISPOL Drugs and Alcohol working group has made a 200 page summary for TISPOL members with access via the TISPOL website. In total there were more than 6600 pages of research text.


Even if finding drug users’ in the traffic flow is not easy, more information can be obtained from the general drug using statistics. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) estimates that around 23 million Europeans (over 6% of all adults) have used cannabis in the last year and around 70 million people have tried it during lifetime. Around 13,4 million (around 4% of all adults), are classified as current users, and roughly 3 million young adults, mostly young males, are estimated to be daily, or almost daily, users.


In many European countries, amphetamines are the second most commonly used illicit substance in some form. Roughly 11 million people have tried amphetamines and about 2 million Europeans will have used the drug in the last year.


Ecstasy is used at least once during life time by around 9,5 million Europeans and almost 3 million have used it last year.


Around 12 million Europeans (around 3% of all adults) have ever used cocaine or crack cocaine; around 4,5 (approx. 1,5% of all adults) are likely to have tried the drug in the last year, while around 2 million (more than 0,5% of all adults) are classified as current users, having used it in the last month.


The weighted average rate of problem drug use (i.e. heroin) in the EU is probably between 0,4 and 0,7% of the population aged 15–64 years, which corresponds to 1,2 - 2,1 million problem drug users in the EU, of whom some 850,000 to 1,3 million are active injectors of the drug. These estimates are far from robust and will need to be refined as more data becomes available from the new Member States. [16]


Figure 2. Study of drugs use by European citizens. Source: The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and DRUID-project Deliverable 2.2.1 Prevalence of Psychoactive Substances in the General Population (deliverable available in www.druid-project.eu)



Ever used

Used in a year

Used during last month



70 million


23 million


13,4 million


11 million

2 million



9,5 million

3 million


Cocaine or crack cocaine

12 million

4,5 million

2 million


It is worth mentioning that here are figures for just limited number of used drugs. There is also huge number of people using other drugs, e.g. LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, MDPV, medicines prescribed by a doctor etc.


In relation with drug driving, cannabis, amphetamine and methamphetamine pose the most pressing problems. More recently prescribed medicines are beginning to feature more in this area.


From a road safety perspective it is extremely alarming that some studies have shown that approximately 80% of drug users will drive after using drugs. Some even drive while using drugs[17].


4.     Prevention


4.1 A Two-fold approach - combining preventative measures and enforcement to reduce drink and drug driving on Europe’s roads


While European police forces already have huge experience in fighting drinking and driving, they are partially still in the early stages of fighting drugs and driving.


Consumption and possession of alcohol is exempt from punishment, only the combination of consumption and participation as a driver in traffic is relevant from a road safety point of view. In contrast, purchasing and possession as a preparatory action for consumption of drugs is already liable to prosecution – irrespective of combining this with using a vehicle in traffic. Strategies to fight drug driving have to take this into consideration.


Therefore, the following considerations in relation to existing and possible future preventative and enforcement measures will regard alcohol and drugs separately. To drive a vehicle after using drugs is more severe offence than just consuming drugs.


Prevention is always very important. There is still much more to do in schools, in the media but also on the roads. Drug abuse starts quietly and alcohol is frequently part of it. To recognise drugs and the signs concerns parents, teachers and police.  Everybody must learn what consequences the use of alcohol and/or drugs and driving will have. The alcohol-limit on European-roads should be lowered to at least 0,5mg/ml.blood or 220 microgram/litre expired breath and for novice and professional drivers, blood alcohol levels of 0,2mg/ml blood or 88 microgram/litre expired breath.


For drugs driving a zero-tolerance is required. This means that the forensic laboratory should not be able to detect any amount of drugs. This will be the case if no drugs are used or the concentration of the consumed illicit drug in the sample of the suspected driver is below the cut off level of the analysis of that sample by the forensic laboratory. Also increasing fines and more frequently disqualifying the driver or withdrawing the drivers licence could prevent people driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and or other psychoactive substances. The police should also have the authority to confiscate the cars of banned drivers.


TISPOL currently mounts two pan-European campaigns against drink and drug driving per year. Whilst drink and drug driving is undertaken by European countries during the normal course of police duties, considerations could be given for more European-wide co-ordinated actions to be undertaken.


4.2 Alcohol

In most countries (successful) preventative concepts to fight alcohol-related offences already exist. Target-oriented (age-group-related) approaches promise to have the biggest impact. Preventative work is not an exclusive task for the police alone. Public and private partners have essential and necessary contributions in preventative work. For this purpose, national co-operation networks have to be established.


There are a number of good practices regarding preventative alcohol-related measures, such as campaigns and Alcolocks in school buses, etc. These and other good practices are accessible within the TISPOL organisation.


Preventive enforcement measures regarding alcohol-related traffic offences depend on the power given to the police by law (random breath testing) and the prescribed limit in law based on the findings of scientific research. Random alcohol controls and a science based BAC level improve the impact of enforcement.


Preventative measures are not a substitute for enforcement. Preventative measures should be accompanied by enforcement and vice versa. The combination of enforcement and preventative educational measures has a substantial impact on increasing road safety.


It should be policy to breath test all drivers of vehicles involved in a traffic collision. It should also be policy to breath test all drivers of vehicles stopped by the police.


4.3 Drugs

Drug driving problems are a specific part of the general drug problem in society.


There is a connecting link between drug-driving and general crime. This is why further measures like search of a vehicle or house and confiscations etc. are regularly taken when there is a suspicion of drug consumption.


Not all countries have consumption of drugs as a crime. But in the case of road traffic, it goes without saying that the use of psychoactive drugs by drivers of vehicles will always endanger the safety of road users. Therefore, road safety education concepts should concentrate on the statement “Don’t drive with drugs in your system”.


For police officers it is not as easy to detect drivers of vehicles being under the influence of drugs as alcohol. Reliable pre-testing equipment to detect small amounts of psychoactive drugs in the system of the driver is required. Observations of a driver by the police officer together with the indication obtained from a device will be enough to conclude there is a suspicion of drug driving.


The most consolidated findings regarding current drug consumption can be gained from a simple oral fluid test at the roadside (as a pre-test). Prior to the implementation of such a system, high legal obstacles (e.g. is there allowance for random testing, using saliva as screening purposes, powers to take the test by force, cut off limits of different substances etc.) would have to be overcome.

5.     Enforcement


5.1 Effect of alcohol driving detection

For many years different countries have performed a rather effective way of checking drivers of vehicles on the improper use of alcohol. Most countries have a per se law where it is forbidden to drive a vehicle with an alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit e.g. 0,0‰, 0,2 ‰, 0,5 ‰. 0,8 ‰).



2012 Drink driving limits in Europe (March 2012)










Standard BAC limit (g/l)

BAC Commercial drivers

BAC Novice Drivers









0.50 (0.20 planned)










0.20 (planned)

0.20 (planned)


          Czech Republic






















0.50 (0.20 for bus drivers)


























































          Republic of Ireland






























          United Kingdom





Non-EU countries













Most countries have an at random allowance to stop any driver of a vehicle and check the driver for alcohol consumption. Scientific research performed in many countries in Europe and abroad has shown that these tools of enforcement have had a deterrent effect on the behaviour of drivers of vehicles related to their alcohol consumption. In Finland for example thanks to these tools and many years of alcohol controls, the number of drivers with an alcohol concentration above the prescribed 0, 5 limit decreased to 0,12% (in 2011) of all checked drivers. In other countries with similar enforcement tools, the prevalence of drivers with too much alcohol in their system has been decreased as well.


By using these two tools to improve road safety related to drink driving, realistic reduction of offenders can be realised. Principles of intelligence led policing should be used by police forces (collision data, complaints, results of frequency studies, etc.).

5.1.1 Roadside random alcohol testing 

Police are encouraged to check all drivers of vehicles for their alcohol consumption as often as possible. The goal of this policy is to convince drivers that police controls on alcohol do have a high priority. In principle any motorist stopped by the police should be informed that police have this priority. The most efficient way to realise this is to allow the motorist to perform a screening test for alcohol. “Any stop of a motorist will always be an alcohol control”. There is evidence that the public support this police policy to check any driver for alcohol consumption. By doing this, an extra impulse will be given to the policy of deterring drink driving. (E.g. studies performed by the Road Safety Research institute (SWOV) in the Netherlands on the drinking and driving attitude of motorists for more than a decade. Frequency decreased from 11% to less than 4%). No extra explanation is needed to conclude that it is absolutely necessary to check drivers involved in traffic collisions for their alcohol consumption. Without doubt, there is good reason always to do this as alcohol is still is a very relevant contributing factor in traffic collisions and killed and injured road users. 


5.2 Effect of drugs driving detection

Since 1998, several European countries have, in analogy to alcohol, introduced per se legislation for drug driving. This legislation has increased the number of prosecutions[1] but, even if data is scarce, there is little indication that there has been an important change in behaviour and that drug driving has been reduced[2].


On the other hand there is some data that random roadside screening for drugs has a deterrent effect. Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of random roadside testing. Two studies of self-reported driving behaviour of drug users pointed out the deterrent effect of random roadside testing for drugs.


The study Terry et al,[3] found that 65% of regular cannabis users reported that they would be deterred from driving after smoking cannabis if there was random roadside testing. The results of a questionnaire conducted by Jones et al.[4] revealed that random roadside testing appears to act as a more effective deterrent against drug-driving than either increasing the severity of sanctions or providing factual information about the risks associated with the behaviour.


In Victoria, Australia behavioural changes have already been noticed as a result of the random roadside testing introduced in 2004. Surveys have showed that the level of awareness of random saliva testing increased from 78% to 92% of drivers and 33% of illicit drug users stated that the drug tests have influenced them, primarily to avoid taking drugs when they are going to drive. The proportion of drug-using respondents who drove while under the influence of drugs also dropped from 45% to 35%.  (P. Swann, personal communication).

5.2.1 Roadside random drug testing 

Over many years, police officers involved in road safety have expressed the need for a rapid and reliable drug test. The onsite urine drug tests and the first generation of the oral fluid tests were evaluated in the first Roadside Testing Assessment Study (ROSITA, EU Project)[5] [6].


A clear majority of countries preferred oral fluid as the matrix for roadside testing, while one country favoured sweat and one favoured urine. A number of onsite tests for oral fluid, available at this moment, have a reliability that will be acceptable for operational police practice. The operability of a number of tested oral fluid screening devices during the ESTHER task of the Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines project DRUID in the period 2006–2008 has been qualified as acceptable.


6.     Technical devices/Engineering


6.1 Enforcement on the roads – Screening devices

Police work must be efficient and tests on the road (screening device) must be able to be done in a straightforward and easy manner. Tests must be operationally reliable enough to conclude that the driver is suspected to have alcohol or drugs in his system.


More enforcement on the roads is possible when all police patrols have alcohol breath testing and drugs detection devices at their disposal. Tests should also not be expensive. Current alcohol breath testing devices are quite satisfactory. In a few seconds to a couple of minutes police can have a reliable indication of the alcohol consumption of the driver. For electronic screening devices it is required periodically to check and calibrate the proper operation of the device. 


It is more difficult to detect drugs in the system of a driver of a vehicle than to detect alcohol. As mentioned earlier there has been a relevant development in the quality of drugs detecting devices during the last decade. Findings at the ROSITA and DRUID project have given evidence of that. The quality of a number of today’s existing screening devices for drugs has been qualified as acceptable for the police enforcement activity by the ESTHER teams of the DRUID project[7].


Some EU countries are already using this kind of screening devices, but there is no evidence yet that the reliability of these devices is good enough for operational police practice. The observation of the driver by an experienced police officer is still overall the most reliable possibility to screen a driver for drugs consumption, as drug screening devices can only detect a limited number of psychoactive drugs. Other drugs cannot be detected by these devices, but nevertheless signs and symptoms of drug use can be observed by the police officer.


6.2 Enforcement on the roads - Evidential instruments

In most European countries analysis of a breath sample is used to give evidence that a driver of a vehicle has committed a specific traffic offence: Driving with an alcohol concentration above the subscribed legal limit.


The evidence that a person is impaired by a substance other than alcohol, or that this person has forbidden psychoactive substances in his system, is given by the analysis of a blood sample. For the impairment approach a statement of the toxicologist is required. This procedure is time consuming and expensive. If the analysis of a blood sample could be replaced by the analysis of an oral fluid sample by the forensic laboratory, the procedure would be streamlined and cheaper. In October 2010 Belgium passed legislation to introduce the analysis of an oral fluid sample as a replacement of the blood analysis to be used as evidence and a zero tolerance for specific illicit drugs in road traffic.


It should also be considered to introduce blood tests at the roadside with adequate equipment comparable to a diabetes test. Research should be supported and a legal basis be established.


6.3 Tools to detect impairment

The knowledge of the police officer about the impairment caused by drugs, that cannot be detected by a screening device or impairment caused by a combined use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, should be improved. Police officers should be trained to detect signs and symptoms of the use of psychoactive substances. Therefore the use of a pupillometer can be of help next to some improved police observation techniques derived from the so-called Drug Recognition Evaluation Program as used in the United States and in some European Countries.


6.4 Alcohol ignition interlock

Alcohol ignition interlock as a primary and secondary prevention can be useful as well. The installation could also be used as an alternative for the withdrawal of a driving license after an impairment offence. The alcohol ignition interlock can be linked to a computer that the police and courts can check to see how many times a driver convicted of drink-driving, has failed due to alcohol consumption or manipulation of the system.


Some European-governments plan to include the alcohol ignition interlock scheme into new road safety legislation. It was also spelled out in the European Commission strategy paper on Road Safety for years 2011-2020 that European Commission will examine to what extent measures are appropriate for making the installation of alcohol interlock devices in vehicles compulsory, for example with respect to professional transport (e.g. school buses)[8].  EU- Harmonised European alcohol ignition interlock laws would prevent many convicted drivers to start a vehicle when over the prescribed limit. This harmonisation of legislation would also encourage the vehicle manufacturing industry to develop and install more sophisticated and cheaper alcohol ignition interlock systems to future vehicles.


The European Council responded to the European Commission “Policy Orientations 2011-2020” in its conclusions on road safety in December 2010. New technology was seen to be important and the Ministers encouraged “new technical solutions to deal with problems like speeding and impaired driving (such as driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and fatigue)”. [9] In the European Parliament report alcohol ignition interlocks is also mentioned: The compulsory installation of alcohol interlocks to all new types of commercial passenger and goods; transport vehicles and to the vehicles of road users who already have more than one drink-driving conviction. The European Parliament asked the European Commission to present by 2013 a proposal for a Directive for the fitting of alcohol interlocks, including the relevant specifications for its technical implementation.[10]


6.5 Drug-lock

At this moment there is no device like the alcohol ignition interlock available for other psychoactive substances other than alcohol. For persons who have used illicit drugs such a device will not be required as these persons will most likely be disqualified to drive or have a withdrawal of the driving licence. Persons (patients) who are using specific drugs according to a medical prescription could have limitations to drive a motor vehicle during a certain period. As far as is known by the police, this is not normal practice. Such a device could be installed permanently or temporarily in a motor vehicle. The drug lock device then could be activated or deactivated by using a key (e.g. own drivers licence). It would be advisable to study the possibility of a drug-lock for certain groups of users of medicines. This will be more complicated than an alcohol ignition interlock as many prescription drugs could be considered to have a detrimental impact on driving behaviour. Based on the finding of such a study, it could be recommended to introduce a drug lock system in cars. Cars then will only start if the drivers’ licence has been put into the “lock device”. Such a device could have a wider working area than just use of specific prescription drugs. 



7.     Recommendations


TISPOL believes that much of the considerable success in reducing drink-drive collisions and casualties in most of the EU countries has resulted from a change in public attitudes.  However, further measures and a new approach are now needed if more reductions are to be achieved. This will be especially the case to enforce driving a vehicle after the use of any psychoactive substances.


Legislation, enforcement, education or publicity is unlikely to achieve significant results on their own, but as a package they have considerable potential to generate further casualty reductions.



7.1 Evaluation Procedure

Consideration should be given to the development of an evaluation procedure whether a driver, who has a known alcohol and drugs problem that could be detrimental to his/her driving skill, should be the holder of a driving licence. In this case, a specialist medical doctor should do the evaluation, not the driver’s private doctor.


7.2 High Risk Offenders

TISPOL supports focusing enforcement and education on High Risk Offenders, such as young drivers and recidivists.  Publicity should reflect these groups more widely.


7.3 Education and Publicity

There is no doubt that the publicity and education campaigns conducted since the late 1970s have changed public knowledge and attitudes about drinking and driving. Long-term publicity in relation to alcohol and drugs driving is essential, supported by education programmes for young people, new learner and existing drivers. In some countries, educational road safety videos designed to alert drivers to risks are shown as part of preventive programmes. They aim at changing attitudes and driver’s behaviour. 



7.4 Lower Drink Drive Limit

The maximum blood alcohol limit in the EU for all member states should be lowered to at least 0,5mg/ml.blood or 220 microgram/litre expired breath.


The European Commission has recommended that EU member states introduce a lower limit, as lower limits will save lives. However such a limit can only act as a deterrent if people are made fully aware of its existence and meaning. A lower alcohol limit would be more effective in saving lives and preventing injuries if it was supported by substantial and sustained publicity.


7.5 A Lower Legal Limit for Novice and Professional Drivers

The accident risk of young drivers increases substantially at blood alcohol levels of 0,2mg/ml blood or 88 microgram/litre expired breath. Lower drink drive limits for novice drivers (plus motorcyclists and professional drivers) have been introduced in some countries (as part of their wider Graduated Driver Licensing Systems). In most countries, younger drivers are the age group with the highest rates of drink driving. Enforcing a separate limit for such a specific group of drivers would require the police to be able to check a driver’s age (or licence status).


7.6 Wider Police Powers to Test without Prior Suspicion

In most EU member states police have the power to check any driver of a vehicle for the consumption of alcohol. TISPOL supports this and recommends that random checking of drivers is implemented as soon as possible in those states where this is not the case. This is in line with the EU recommendations. Random breath testing has shown to have a positive effect on the reduction of fatal road accidents[11] [12].


Whilst random checks on drivers for alcohol can be made in most EU States, the power to check for illicit drug substances is given in a limited form. Most member states allow police to check a driver of a vehicle for the use of drugs, if signs and symptoms of drug use or indications of impairment arouse their suspicion. Only in very specific situations, e.g. a traffic collision, some member states have given the police the authority to check the drivers involved for the use of psychoactive drugs. This power is considered as a “post-crash” power of the police. For road safety purposes it is required that the police have similar powers in the “pre-crash” phase.


The state of Victoria, Australia has the longest history of zero tolerance legislation for illicit drugs, the use of oral fluid screening devices for the detection of the offence by the police and the forensic analysis of an oral fluid sample to be used as evidence in court.


New legislation e.g. in Belgium allows saliva testing for evidential purposes. Other European countries such as Norway, Slovenia and Spain have introduced new drug driving legislation also. Other EU member states also have a zero tolerance policy for illicit drugs, but require evidence from a blood test for permissible evidence.


TISPOL recommends the introduction of random drugs testing with a zero-tolerance approach in all EU member states for illicit drugs and the analysis of an oral fluid sample to be used as evidence in court.


7.7 Psychoactive substances

New psychoactive substances are constantly being developed, but other products like certain mushrooms, or volatile substances like glue, cleaning products and other substances can be abused and will have a detrimental impact on reaction and driving behaviour. It will be very difficult to bring all these substances under the regime of a specific article in a national traffic act. The approach for the legislation should therefore have two main strands.


The first approach should deal with known illicit substances. In this approach a zero tolerance should be prescribed in the national traffic act. Substances mentioned in two UN conventions could be used; UN Convention on narcotic substances 1961 and UN convention on psychotropic substances 1971.


The second approach should deal with those psychoactive substances not, or not yet, mentioned in the (inter)national conventions or laws, but from which it is known that these substances are sniffed, smoked, inhaled, injected, etc. For these substances, an impairment approach is required. 



7.8 Enforcement as a key issue

Effective enforcement of the drink and drug driving laws is essential. Enforcement must be high profile and highly visible to the public in order to enhance its deterrent effect. Drivers should perceive that if they choose to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there is a substantial chance that they will be detected and prosecuted and that the penalties will be severe. Enforcement must be backed up by education.


In the Cleopatra database[13] on the TISPOL website (www.tispol.org) there are examples of good practice of alcohol enforcement in the following EU member states, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and UK.


Good examples of practical drugs and driving enforcement are less wide spread. These examples can be found on websites of Australian police forces and states (Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland). In these states, oral fluid-screening devices are used together with evidential analysis of an oral fluid sample. Police in these states are authorised to randomly test for drug driving.


In Europe, Belgium was the first member state to implement a similar legislation and policy in October 2010 with a zero tolerance for a limited number of illicit drugs (Cannabis, Methamphetamines, Cocaine and Opiates). Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden have zero tolerance against all illicit drugs, though evidence is provided by the analysis of a blood sample.


TISPOL recommends a zero tolerance approach to illicit drugs with widespread drug driving education.


Technical devices

7.9 Legal substances

Certain legally prescribed medicines or ‘bought over the counter’ medication can affect the ability to drive safely. Testing devices for medicines and not just illicit drugs are needed in future for police use. There is a need for clear educational programmes in relation to the dangers of driving whilst taking certain prescribed medicines.


7.10 Evidential roadside breath testing for alcohol

In most member states, drivers who fail a roadside breath test have to be taken to a police station for a second test, because roadside breath test results are not admissible evidence in court. Countries should implement a complete roadside evidential breath testing procedure, as this will allow the police to test more suspected drink drivers with the same level of human resources.


7.11 Evidence for drug driving

Evidence that a person has been driving a vehicle with specific psychoactive substances in his system forbidden by law, should be available by the analysis of an oral fluid sample. The driver should provide this sample after a request to do so by a police officer.


7.12 Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIIDs)

Some countries require BAIIDs to be fitted into vehicles of convicted offenders. These devices are designed to prevent a car engine from starting if the person who breathes into the device has been drinking alcohol. There is some evidence that they are effective in discouraging re-offending while the order is in force, but that re-offending occurs once the restriction is removed.


TISPOL recommends monitoring the results of the BAIID pilot schemes that are currently underway. TISPOL also encourages the automotive industry to install alcohol ignition interlocks in the future at the point of manufacture to every new motor vehicle. TISPOL also encourages member countries to follow the European Parliament recommendations on alcohol ignition interlocks:

“Recommends, as a reintegration measure, the fitting of alcohol ignition interlocks to the vehicles of road users who already have more than one drink-driving conviction;

Recommends that fitting of alcohol ignition interlocks – with a small, scientifically-based range of tolerance for measurement – to all new types of commercial passenger and goods transport vehicles be made compulsory; calls on the Commission to prepare by 2013 proposal for a Directive for the fitting of alcohol ignition interlocks, including the relevant specifications for its technical implementation.”[14]



7.13 Penalties for Offenders

Sentencing policy for convicted road traffic offenders should complement and support other road safety measures, such as education and training to produce better, safer drivers who are less likely to re-offend. For road safety purposes, the aim of sentencing should be to change the attitudes and behaviour of the individuals being sentenced and also of the wider driving public. Wider use should be made of sanctions designed to change offenders’ behaviour, such as rehabilitation courses, re-training and re-testing.


TISPOL supports the use of rehabilitation courses. Some drink and drug drivers have an overall addiction problem, which is not effectively addressed through police enforcement and sentencing (Please also see 7.1). It has been found that some offenders who have completed a specific rehabilitation course are less likely to re-offend than those who have not.


Although each case must be judged on its individual circumstances, it seems likely that greater consistency in sentences for similar offences would enhance their deterrent effect, and help to address the public disquiet that is often expressed when offenders receive (seemingly) inappropriately light sentences.


7.14 Disqualification Periods (alcohol)

TISPOL would support the courts’ having the power to impose a driving ban as part of bail conditions where the court thought that the defendant might commit a further drink-drive offence whilst on bail.


TISPOL would also support research into whether it is appropriate that a driving licence should be automatically returned after a period of disqualification to known recidivist offenders (Please also see 7.1).


7.15 Disqualification Periods (other psychoactive substances)

Persons who use psychoactive substances other than alcohol can be users of prescription drugs under the medical treatment of a doctor, recreational users of certain medications, or users of illicit drugs. Consideration should be given to patients using prescription drugs, which are likely to affect their driving, being given a temporarily disqualification whilst they use their medication.


TISPOL recommends that the use of prescription or ‘bought over the counter’ drugs used by drivers should be further researched.


7.16 Immediate Licence Confiscation

The immediate confiscation by Police (such as happens for example in Hungary and Norway) of the driving licence of drivers who fail an evidential breath test, or who refuse to perform an alcohol breath test, or refuse to provide an oral fluid sample, could be another way of reducing the likelihood that such people would continue to drive while waiting for their case to come to court.


7.17 Disqualified Drivers

Disqualified drivers who are detected driving a motor vehicle during the period of disqualification, or while their driving licence has been withdrawn, should be stopped immediately.  Consideration should also be given to the confiscation of their motor vehicle.  


This policy document has been prepared by the TISPOL Drugs and Alcohol working group and has been approved in the TISPOL Council meeting in October 2012.



The document will be updated periodically.

8.      TISPOL recommendations in a nutshell



  • Acknowledge that enforcement is one of the  key issues to tackle down DUI after successful implementation of  other measures (e.g. legislation, education, publicity, new technique); all TISPOL member states should take part to TISPOL Drugs and Alcohol operations and conduct drink and drug driving enforcement effectively on a daily basis
  • A reduction of the blood alcohol limit to a maximum 0.5mg per ml at first, later on going even lower
  • Lower limits for professional drivers and novice drivers (max. 0,2mg per ml)
  • Random testing for alcohol and drugs
  • Zero tolerance for driving with any illicit drug present in the system
  • Impairment approach  drugs under doctor’s prescription and over the counter drugs
  • Routine screening for alcohol (and if applicable for drugs) of every driver stopped and after all collisions
  • Withdrawal of driving licence by police
  • Disqualification of drivers when appropriate
  • Driver with known alcohol or/and drugs problem must be evaluated by a specialist medical doctor to find out the adequacy to hold a driving license
  • As long as a driver has an alcohol or/and drug problem he shouldn't be allowed to hold a driver license
  • Higher penalties & driver rehabilitation to change behaviour for repeated offenders
  • Confiscation of vehicle when appropriate
  • Strong communication and education as a preventative measure
  • High risk drivers should be focussed when preventing DUI problems
  • Best practices need to be explored and circulated
  • Requirements for oral fluid screening devices to check motorist on the use of specific drugs
  • Technical equipment supporting police enforcement (police equipment on the road side e.g. evidential breath analyzers and drug screening devices)
  • Scientific & police knowledge must come together
  • Alcohol ignition interlocks more widely in use; in every new motor vehicle, for recidivist drink drivers and vehicles for professional transport on people and goods
  • Enhance Police officers’ training to develop and improve their ability to identify the signs and symptoms of impairment caused by psychoactive substances
  • Sharing good practises between member countries and key stakeholders



References sections 1-4

[1] Walsh JM, de Gier JJ, Christophersen AS, Verstraete AG. Drugs and driving. Traffic Injury Prevention. In press.

[2] Jones AW. Driving under the influence of drugs in Sweden with zero concentration limits in blood for controlled substances. Traffic Inj Prev 2005; 6(4): 317-322.

[3] Terry P, Wright KA. Self-reported driving behaviour and attitudes towards driving under the influence of cannabis among three different user groups in England. Add Behav 2005; 30(3): 619-626.

[4] Jones C, Donnelly L, Swift W, Weatherburn D. Driving under the influence of cannabis. Crim Just Bull 2005; 87.

[5] Verstraete AG, Puddu M. Evaluation of different roadside drug tests. In: Verstraete AG, editor. Rosita. Roadside testing assessment. Gent: Rosita consortium, 2001: 167-232.

[6] Verstraete AG, Puddu M. General conclusions and recommendations. In: Verstraete AG, editor. Rosita. Roadside testing assessment. Gent: Rosita consortium, 2001: 393-397.

[7] Evaluation of oral fluid Screening devices by TISPOL to Harmonise European police Requirements (ESTHER),     www.druid-project.eu

[8] Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020, page 6

[9] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/trans/118150.pdf

[10] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

[11] Traffic Safety Handbook, The Institute of Transport Economics (Transportøkonomisk institutt, TØI), Oslo, Norway.

[12] G. Nilsson, G. Andersson, U. Brüde, J. Larsson & H. Thulin: Traffic security development in Sweden until 2001.  VTI Report 486, National Road and Transport Institute, Lindköping, Sweden, 2002.

[13] The development of this database is a part of an EC funded road safety project PEPPER (Police Enforcement Policy and Programmes on European Roads). The database is named CLEOPATRA (Collection of Law Enforcement Operations and Police Activities to Reduce Traffic Accidents).

[14] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN


References sections 5-8

[1] European Commission 2003. Comparative study of road traffic rules and corresponding enforcement actions in the Member States of the European Union. Final report.

[2] European Transport Safety Council. 1999. Police enforcement strategies to reduce traffic casualties in Europe and SUNFLOWER: A comparative study of the development of road safety in Sweden, in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. 2002. SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research.  

[3] European Commission. 2004. Commission recommendation on enforcement in the field of road safety 2004/345/EC.

[4] Zero tolerance means that the concentration of the specific substance will be below the cut off level for the detection of that substance by the forensic laboratory.

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/pdf/observatory/historical_evol.pdf and European Parliament Report on road safety 2011-2020 (2010/2235 (INI))

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN and Public consultation on an EU strategy to reduce injuries resulting from road traffic accidents: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/pdf/consultations/road_injuries_questionnaire.pdf

[6] European Commission. 2004. Communication on Enforcement 2004/C 93/04.

[7] ERSO 2006

[8] ETSC report: Drink Driving: Towards Zero Tolerance, April 2012

[9] http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/pdf/road_safety_citizen/road_safety_citizen_100924_en.pdf

[10] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2011-0264+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

[11] During TISPOL Alcohol and Drug European wide operations these figures can be confirmed. When more than one million drivers were tested in one week lasting operation, number of impaired drivers was 1,5 %. When police guse an intelligence led policy to detect impaired drivers this figure can easily increase. On the other hand as deterrence TISPOL operations gives drivers a feeling that police has a high priority on this enforcement and therefore drink or drug driving should be avoided.

[12] European Road Safety Observatory www.erso.eu

[13] One study was conducted in Australia (P. Swann, personal communication), one in Canada (Dussault et al., 2002), one in Denmark (Behrensdorff and Steentoft, 2003), two in the Netherlands (Assum et al., 2005; Mathijssen, 1999), one in Norway (Assum et al., 2005), one in the United Kingdom (Glasgow) (Assum et al., 2005) and one in the United States (Lacey et al., 2007).

[14] Traffic Injury Prevention volume 11, issue 5, 2010: Simplifying the Process for Identifying Drug Combinations by Drug Recognition experts; pages 453-459. Porath-Waller Amy J. & Beirness Douglas J.

[15] www.druid-project.eu/cln_007/nn_107534/Druid/EN/home/

[16] Annual report 2005: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. 1-113. 2005. Luxembourg, European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction. DRUID-project deliverable 2.2.1 Prevalence of Psychoactive Substances in the General Population (www.druid-project.eu)

[17] ROSITA 2 project  Grant agreement no SUB-B27020B-E-507.I8222-2002 final report ISBN-13 978 90 382 1039 I

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