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Could Norway introduce mandatory inbuilt car breathalysers?

Norway should implement inbuilt breathalysers in all commercial and private vehicles, a trade union group has said.

Could Norway introduce mandatory inbuilt car breathalysers?
Traffic in Oslo. Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The United Federation of Trade Unions is lobbying for the introduction of ignition interlock devices, which prevent a car from being started if the driver is over the legal alcohol limit, in all cars.

“All motor vehicles, both private cars and commercial vehicles, should have ignition interlock devices as standard,” Geir Kvam, an advisor to the Social Policy Department at the United Federation of Trade Unions, told newspaper Dagavisen.

“Driving under the influence is very serious with massive potential for accidents. An inbuilt breathalyser is an effective tool that can prevent drink driving,” he added.

Labour politician Marit Nybakk is also in favour of inbuilt breathalysers.

“I believe that all use of ignition interlock devices can help reduce accidents and fatalities in traffic, a goal that is set out in the zero vision [target for zero traffic accident fatalities, ed.] that parliament adopted. The most important thing (to help achieve the goal) is to prevent drink-driving, which is a criminal offence,” Nybakk told Dagavisen.

Work is currently underway in both Norway and the EU to expand the use of inbuilt car breathalysers. Kvam said he believes it may be some time before we see the breathalysers introduced.

“This is being worked on in the EU, but there is a long way to go, including coordinating a common European alcohol limit and equal penalties,” he said. 

Kvam has provided input to the EU committee assessing the use of ignition interlocks and has suggested a limit of a 0.02 Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Blood Alcohol Concentration refers to the percentage of alcohol in one’s bloodstream. In Norway, the drink driving limit is a BAC of 0.02.

This is roughly equivalent to a beer, glass of wine or one single measure spirit and mixer beverage.

If you are caught driving with a BAC of 0.05 and above in Norway, it will result in a driving ban. A BAC of 0.05 is equivalent to about three beers, three glasses of wine or three single measure spirit and mixer drinks.

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Currently, the breathalysers are only mandatory for busses and minivans in Norway.

The Norwegian Truck Owners Association (Norges Lastebileier-Forbund) has backed the idea but says that it wants to see the law implemented across Europe first.

“Since the Norwegian transport industry is competing with fierce international competition, any requirement for breathalysers must apply to all participants in the European market. There is no point in making it mandatory just in Norway. This would entail costs and measures that will make it harder for Norwegian firms to compete. Any requirement must therefore be Europe-wide,” Geir A. Mo, CEO of the Norwegian Truck Owners Association, told Dagavisen.

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TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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