Radical measures floated to cut road death toll

Drivers in Sweden could soon have to take a breath test every time they get into their cars, as part of a drive to improve road safety.

Sweden has volunteered to test a mandatory “alco-lock” ignition interlock system within the EU. The thought is to require the system on all heavy commercial and public sector vehicles starting in 2010 and in all vehicles from 2012.

Permission from the EU to test the system would give Sweden the right to circumvent free trade regulations that normally prevent countries from introducing mandatory schemes of this kind, according to Dagens Nyheter.

The technology could also be found soon in private cars. A new Volvo prototype has been unveiled which will not start unless the driver is buckled up and has passed a breath test.

The prototype, which went on display at this year’s traffic safety conference in Tylösand, also has technology to regulate its maximum speed.

“Parents can have a special key when their children take the car to limit them to say 90 kilometers per hour.” said Henrik Forsgren from Volvo Cars.

Ingrid Skogsmo, head of car safety for Volvo cars, said that the technology still had to become more user-friendly.

“ But there should be a market for interlocks within three years if we get the go-ahead from the authorities,” she said.

“Drivers under the influence, unrestrained passengers and exceeding the speed limit are the main causes of traffic-related deaths” Skogsmo also pointed out.

Speed limits are also a hot topic at this year’s traffic safety conference.

The Swedish National Road Administration (Vägverket) is discussing changing Sweden’s speed limits: slower speeds in densely populated areas and higher limits –up to 120 kph on motorways. The new speeds could be introduced from 2007 according to DN.

New speed limits could save “40-50 lives per year and reduce the average speed on the roads 1-2%” claims Jan Moberg at Vägverket.

In densely populated areas speed limits could be reduced from 50 to 40 kph while broad 2-way major roads could be increased from 90 to 100 kph.

DN reports that there is a debate about what speed limit is appropriate on broad roads without a painted median that currently have a speed limit of 90 kph. A reduction of speed to 80 kph would mostly likely not be accepted and respected by motorists while an increase to 100 kph would impede traffic safety.