Last week, Jaime Lotter, our Director for Government Relations and Traffic Safety, set out for Helsinki, Finland to learn about international traffic safety efforts at the Traffic Injury Research Foundation’s 13th annual Alcohol Interlock Symposium. The symposium is an excellent place to learn about international ignition interlock programs and how they are reducing drunk driving.

Finland is known for its architects, designers, skiing, reindeer and a world class education system. It was the first country in Europe where women could vote and it is the birthplace of the sauna.

Finland also has a robust system for fighting drunk driving including a treatment program for DWI offenders consisting of 3 parts:

  • Substance abuse/addiction mapping,
  • Tools to manage substance use and driving behavior, and
  • A rehabilitation plan developed with the offender for substance abuse treatment if necessary.

Offenders are then given a medical certificate for driving in 3-12 month durations, with re-assessment after that period. Finland mandates ignition interlocks on school buses and other commercial vehicles and requires 1-3 years of interlock use for DWI offenders (depending on the severity of the offense).

By comparison, the Dutch have a very strict 2-year interlock requirement for all DWI offenders, or you lose your license for 5 years.  In Sweden, all DWI offenders have an option to install interlocks or face license suspension. Low BAC offenders (0.2% BAC or higher) can install an interlock for 1-2 years after a short period of license revocation, or have their license suspended for a minimum of 2 years. High risk offenders (.10% BAC or higher) can install an interlock for 2 years minimum or have a 5 year license suspension. All offenders must also go through drug and alcohol tests.

Norway has a high risk-only program, for offenders convicted of DWI with a 0.12% BAC or higher. These offenders go through a 10-month alternative sentencing program, as well as a medical examination. In Finland, people convicted of a DWI must go to counseling regarding their alcohol use.

Since The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is working with the Division on Addictions at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, to develop the CARS assessment tool, Finland’s treatment program for DWI offenders was of particular interest. We are looking forward to attending next year’s conference to learn more about the world’s relationship to interlock programming and technology, and continuing to work with TIRF on reducing hardcore drunk driving in the United States.