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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Under the anti-drinking and driving law, Lei Seca, literally Dry Law, the penalties for driving drunk or while using a cell phone are about to get much harsher for Rio de Janeiro motorists. Starting November 1st, the fine for drunk driving or refusing to take a breathalyzer test will be raised to R$2,930 from its current R$1,915.

Operação Lei Seca was introduced in Rio in 2009, photo by Rogério Santana/Imprensa RJ.
Operação Lei Seca was introduced in Rio in 2009, photo by Rogério Santana/Imprensa RJ.

The one-year suspension of the perpetrator’s driver’s license remains unchanged. For drivers caught talking on their cell phones while driving, the fine will more than double, increasing from R$85 to R$192.

Military Police Lieutenant Colonel Marco Andrade, head of Operação Lei Seca, explained that the objective behind the increased fines is to raise public awareness of the problem, “The ultimate goal is to re-educate, we take no pleasure in the fine,” he said.

Operação Lei Seca was first introduced in 2009 as an enforcement and educational campaign to reduce the number of traffic accidents due to driving under the influence of alcohol. The ‘dry law’ was initially passed in 2008, and changed the acceptable level of alcohol in one’s body to zero, making any blood alcohol content an offense.

According to the Public Security Institute (ISP) and Brazil’s National Traffic agency (Denatran), in 2009 when the law was introduced, the ratio of deaths from drunk driving was 59 per 100,000 vehicles. Last year, that number was significantly reduced, with 29 for every 100,000 vehicles, approximately fifty percent less under Lei Seca.

“When we started seven years ago, twenty percent of drivers were caught under the influence of alcohol. Today, this figure has dropped to seven percent,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrade. “We need society to buy this idea.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Brazil is the country with the fourth highest number of deaths from traffic accidents each year.

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