Eastern Europeans disregard drink-drive laws, says police chief
EASTERN European immigrants are showing “blatant disregard” for our drinkdriving laws, a leading Scottish traffic police officer said yesterday.
Chief Inspector Sandy Bowman, head of road policing for Tayside Police, said foreign drivers were “frequently” being detected well in excess of the drink-driving limit.
Scotland has a higher limit than many European countries and Chief Inspector Bowman said it was unclearwhy Eastern Europeans were breaking traffic laws in this way.
He said: “There are a number of people on our roads who do not heed road traffic law. Among them are certain drivers from overseas – noticeably Eastern Europe – who are either unaware of, orwho have a blatant disregard for, our laws, particularly in relation to drinking and driving.
“I think it is fair to say that foreign drivers – that is people who have recently arrived in Scotland from overseas – are being detected on a frequent basis whilst over the drink drive limit. Very often they are far in excess of that limit.
“The problem is in no way exclusive to Tayside, but it is something we are determined to address through education at a local and national level.
“As with any legislation, ignorance is no excuse.”
Tayside Police has distributed leaflets in Polish, Russian, Lithuanian and French with advice on drink-drive limits, seatbelts, speeding and other road traffic legislation.
Road safety campaigners yesterday demanded action to clamp down on those who come to the UK and ignore driving legislation. Sheila Ranger, of the RAC Foundation, said: “This is becoming quite a significant problem and we are very worried about it.
“Quite often the people coming to the UK to work are young men who have a track record of not obeying all the laws on the road. Also, people are coming in from a different culture and might not appreciate we are very strict on drink driving and that we regard it as unacceptable.
“They are perhaps not being targeted or seeing publicity against drink driving.
“The limits are lower in Europe, but I have heard they are not effectively prosecuted, so there is a culture of disregarding the law. We certainly want to see it targeted.”
She added: “It doesn’t matterwhat nationality the person behind the wheel is, the potential for carnage is the same.”
At present, most European nations have a permitted drink-drive limit of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, while Scotland’s is 80 milligrams. Poland’s limit is a mere 20 mil- ligrams, while Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary have a zero tolerance to drink driving.
Last week, Polish chef Robert Cichocki, 30, was handed 140 hours’ community service, banned for two years and fined £600 at Stirling Sheriff Court after he admitted getting behind the wheel after downing vodka at a Hogmanay party. He drove through a crowded city centre with a burst tyre, scattering revellers and pedestrians, before being caught by police in Dumbarton Road, Stirling.
Also l a s t we e k , P o l i s h national Andrzej Matusik was fined £600 at Dundee Sheriff Court and banned from driving for 18 months after he admitted being in charge of a van with excess alcohol on his breath.
Passing sentence, Sheriff R i c h a r d D av i d s o n s a i d : “There appears to be very poor compliance by Polish nationals with this aspect of UK law.”