Automatic sobriety checkpoints aim to bar drunk drivers

4:38 min

Several new checkpoints have just been inaugurated in Stockholm, which will automatically carry out a breathalyzer test on drivers for alcohol before allowing them to drive off of a ferry and onto the roads.

Drinking can be a popular activity on board big cruise-ferry ships arriving to Stockholm ports. This is a problem when tipsy passengers have brought their cars on the journey, and then disembark onto the roads. Normally, the police, Coast Guard or customs agents will do random checks on drivers at the gate to make sure they're sober.

But now, these authorities, along with the Swedish Transport Administration and MHF, the society for sober drivers, are using the harbor of Frihamnen to test out automatic sobriety checkpoints that motorists would have to clear before leaving.

Basically, you drive up to the checkpoint, blow into a tube (without it touching your mouth), and if you're sober, the red and white striped boom barrier goes up, or at least it's supposed to. Some people find it easier to use the devices than others.

According to Tomas Jonsson, the project manager for the sober driving society, 1 in every 100 drivers at this harbor are caught for being over the legal limit, and he hopes just knowing the automatic checkpoints are there will discourage people from drinking before they get behind the wheel. That's what they seem to have done in Gothenburg during a trial last fall with trucks coming off the ferries. Jonsson says the checkpoints reduced the problem dramatically, to about a 20th of what it had been before the automatic booms were installed. But now it's time for a larger test, with cars, too, which is why the trial has come here.

Maria Bergström, the chairperson of MHF, says these automatic sobriety checkpoints are only in Sweden, which is also where they're made and developed. The whole process has cost millions of kronor so far, she says.

Here in Stockholm, the checkpoints are being tested this fall, and then the results will be evaluated in or after December to see whether it's a good idea to install them permanently and expand them to other places, and also who would bear the costs.

Brett Ascarelli, Radio Sweden