By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A major anti-drinking and driving operation by Rio police has led to over 150 motorists being fined after new legislation was brought into effect. Of 1,800 drivers stopped, 153 failed breathalyzer tests on the first night of stricter rules of the Lei Seca (literally “Dry Law”) – some were also arrested after refusing to cooperate with officers, according to local government sources.
Those who were found to be over the limit were fined and had their license seized. The new, rules came into force on Friday, December 21st, and carry a considerably larger fine: R$1,915 (US$921) up from R$957.
One of the places targeted by police was Barra da Tijuca, Zona Oeste (West Zone). The stretch of roadways connecting Zona Sul (South Zone) to Barra is one of the more dangerous for motorists.
Even if someone refuses to take a breathalyzer test – which is how drivers used to try to escape being fined or arrested, police may now charge motorists if they are visibly intoxicated, and have the right to use proof collected at the scene, including video recordings, as supporting evidence.
Those found with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.06 or more are technically considered over the limit and fined (the U.S. and UK limits are .08), and those discovered with a BAC in excess of 0.34 face criminal charges.
In 2010 under the Lei Seca, drivers found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.2 (equivalent to around a can of beer or a small glass of wine) receives a fine of R$957 and have their driver’s licenses suspended for a year. Anyone with a blood alcohol level of 0.6 was to be arrested on the spot, and possibly punished with six months to three years in jail.
Under the new rules, those breaking the law a second time in under a year will face a fine of R$4,000 (US$1,924).
Since the Lei Seca was introduced four years ago under Lula, some 81,000 drivers have had their licenses seized, and police have reported a significant decrease in the number of drunk drivers being caught: from twenty percent in 2009 to 8.6 percent this year.
Police hope the stronger legislation will continue this downward trend, and save lives on Rio’s roads. The new law comes in time for the Christmas and New Years Réveillon celebrations, when last year Rio police also patrolled the bay around Rio.
Read more (in Portuguese)
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