Gothenburg port in Sweden has installed the country’s first automated sobriety check to prevent drivers over the alcohol limit from venturing on to its road network.
Resembling petrol pumps, the “alco-barriers” will select random drivers rolling off truck and car ferries that put into Scandinavia’s largest port and require them to blow into a breathalyser tube.
If the driver’s breathalcohol content is measured at more than the Swedish legal limit of 0.10 milligrams per litre, the barrier that allows the vehicle to leave the port area will stay down and the police will be alerted.
“In the long term, I want to see this kind of control in every Swedish port,” Sweden’s infrastructure minister, Tomas Eneroth, told local media. “It’s a signal to those who come onto our roads – that we have controls, and expect sobriety on the network.”
Like Brits on “booze cruises” to France, many Swedes take advantage of cheaper German prices to drive across the Öresund bridge or take the ferry to Denmark, or directly to Germany, returning with cars laden with beer, wine and spirits.
Eighty of the 325 traffic deaths on Swedish roads last year were directly or indirectly due to alcohol, according to the transport ministry. “We have a very high standard of road safety but there is still much to do,” Eneroth said.
Sweden has a government alcohol monopoly for the sale of all alcoholic drinks over 3.5% by volume, and taxes alcohol at a much higher rate than many EU countries, making beer and vodka two to three times more expensive than in Germany.
The temptation to enjoy a few cheap drinks on the ferry has long been too strong for some to resist, and on some routes, such as Baltic Sea crossings between Sweden and Finland, an entire industry has grown up offering 24-hour all-you-can-drink trips.
While the first alco-barrier in Gothenburg targets mainly commercial drivers, the government – which has invested SEK78m (£7.75m) in the system – intends to roll it out in all Swedish freight and ferry terminals over the next few years.
“Safety is our first priority in view of the dangerous goods that are handled every day in the port,” said Dan-Erik Andersson, the operations manager of Gothenburg’s energy terminal. The southwestern port handles 600,000 roll-on, roll-off trucks a year as well as 300,000 cars and 1.7 million passengers.