Alcohol sales were introduced to 40 Swiss motorway service stations since the beginning of 2021. Prevention experts warned that this move could lead to an increased number of road traffic accidents due to driving under the influence of alcohol. Service station operators on the other hand rejoiced claiming the move could increase profits (from increased alcohol sales).
But the move was highly controversial because alcohol and road traffic do not belong together. And first data shows that Swiss citizens have not taken to buying alcohol from service stations.
By the end of 2021, many restaurants in motorway service areas had to give up and remove installed alcohol dispensing systems since the demand was too low.
Severely little alcohol is consumed. We had installed a dispensing system and had to give it up after half a year. The volume was just not that big,” said Ramon Heinzer, a restaurant operator at the MyStop motorway service area in Affoltern am Albis on the A4 in the canton of Zurich, as per SRF.Ramon Heinzer, a restaurant operator at the MyStop motorway service area in Affoltern am Albis
Other motorway service areas have experienced a similar lack of interest on part of Swiss drivers to consume alcohol as they travel by car. Grauholz service area on the A1 near Bern dismantled the taps and reduced the alcohol supply. Migros subsidiary Migrolino, which operates 18 gas station shops on the Swiss motorways also notes low alcohol sales in motorway service areas.
According to Autogrill, which operates a number of service stations, Swiss people who do buy alcohol products in motorway service areas do so more to take away rather than consume on-site in the restaurant.
This is a remarkable admission, revealing that for the industry the move was about profit, risking increased fatalities due to driving under the influence of alcohol.
Strong norm of alcohol-free road traffic
But the story shows how out of touch the industry is with the concerns of the Swiss people. They have a strong norm of alcohol-free road traffic.
The choices of Swiss people to shun alcohol in motorway service stations have kept road traffic accidents low. In the first quarter of 2021 road traffic accidents declined in Switzerland. This could in part be due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Community groups working for prevention are calling for an end of the experiment to sell alcohol on motorways. Considering the high toll on human life from driving under the influence of alcohol, it was unethical to sell alcohol at motorway service stations.
We are still critical of the sale of alcohol at service stations. This in view of the many fatal accidents that occur in road traffic due to alcohol,” said Marc Kipfer from the advice center for accident prevention BfU, as per SRF.
The highway is and remains the wrong place for us to sell alcohol.”Marc Kipfer, advice center for accident prevention BfU