Vodka-loving Russia faces drink-driving ban: president

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The Independent Travel

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday he would ban drinking and driving in his vodka-loving country amid concern over road safety ahead of the holiday celebrations.

"One who drinks, loses his head. And we know people drink here! First one shot - that's allowed. Then two, three and, 'okay, let's go.' I think we should ban drinking behind the wheel," Medvedev said in a live end-of-year interview with state television.

Russia in July 2008 ended its zero-tolerance drink-driving law to allow motorists blood-alcohol levels of up to 0.3 grams, in line with international standards.

But Medvedev said Russians could not be trusted to stop at a one drink limit.

"I don't know if everyone will be happy about this, but I think we have to do it," he laughed. "I will introduce an amendment to the law."

"We are not ready yet to allow drinking and driving, even a limited amount. Unfortunately that encourages serious drunkenness at the wheel," he said.

Russia has one of the world's worst road safety records, with 33,000 people dying in traffic accidents, some 15,000 of which were caused by drunk driving in 2007, according to government figures.

The number of accidents can be expected to spike during the holiday seasons, which lasts from January 1-7 for Russians, and officials are especially worried as vodka sales have rocketed in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Alcohol abuse kills some 500,000 Russians annually and greatly impacts male life expectancy, which is lower than in impoverished countries such as Bangladesh or Honduras, according to official figures.

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