A report released by National Road Safety Authority in Portugal (ANSR) reveals data obtained from tests conducted by the Institute of Forensic Medicine (INMLCF). The INMLCF runs toxicology tests to calculate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and narcotic drug levels found in victims of traffic crash fatalities.
The legal BAC limit when driving in Portugal is 0.5 g/l. Key results from the INMLCF tests are:
- 37% of autopsied drivers in 2019 had BAC levels equal to or higher than 0.5 g/l.
- This is an increase from 2018 when the result was 30.8%. Such a high figure was last found in 2010 and 2012.
- In 2019, the percentages of cases with BAC equal to or greater than 1.20 g/l among victims with BAC greater than 0.5g/l were 79.0% for drivers, 71.4% for pedestrians and 64.3% for passengers. All these figures are significant increases from 2018.
- 13.3% of drivers who were autopsied in 2019 revealed the presence of narcotics or psychotropic substances. This is an increase from 11.3% in 2018.
- For narcotic drug related road traffic fatalities, the predominant substances found in 2019 were cannabinoids (3.4%).
Alcohol harm and policy solutions in Portugal
Overall, Portugal’s alcohol consumption is higher than the European regional average. This is cause for concern because the European region is the heaviest alcohol consuming part of the world. While almost 31% of Portuguese adults live free from alcohol in any given year, alcohol consumption levels among men is staggering:
- Male Portuguese alcohol users consume 25.1 liters of pure alcohol per capita, per year,
- 53% of them engage in heavy episodic alcohol use,
- Among young male alcohol users, it is even 65% who engage in binge alcohol consumption,
- 11% of men in Portugal have an alcohol use disorder, much more than the regional average.
As the World Health Organization reports, annually over 300 Portuguese people loose their lives due to alcohol-related road traffic injuries.
Growing evidence shows that the Portuguese 0.05% BAC limit is not enough as this blogg alcohol concentration still has a significant impact on the driving performance and increases the likelihood of accidents. According to evidence from the Icelandic government for example, a driver with a BAC of 0.05% is 150 times more likely to die in a traffic accident, and 30 times more likely to suffer serious injuries. Reducing the BAC limit to 0.02% is a possible policy solution for Portugal.
Enforcement of the BAC laws is key to its efficacy. Stronger enforcement of the existing laws and increasing public awareness about alcohol control and prevention would benefit Portugal in reducing the high alcohol-related road traffic fatalities.
In addition, improvements to the availability of alcohol policies would benefit public health as well as road safety.