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Reoffending drink- and drug-drivers will face compulsory health checks, says interior ministry
DRIVERS caught over the alcohol limit, on drugs or both more than once in two years will face an automatic ban and compulsory health checks to see whether they suffer addictions, says interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido.
Although this is already provided for by the General Drivers' Regulations, part of Spain's road traffic law, it is rarely applied.
But the ex-mayor of Sevilla and now head of Interior says something needs to be done in light of the high number of cyclist and pedestrian deaths and injuries and of drivers continuing to be found well in excess of the alcohol limit or under the influence of substances, typically cocaine and cannabis.
Less than a week after three cyclists from Jávea (Alicante province) lost their lives when a drunken and drug-fuelled driver ploughed through them on the N-332 highway in Oliva (Valencia province), a near-identical case was seen in the province of Tarragona – a woman aged 25 who had consumed large amounts of alcohol knocked down six cyclists.
Fortunately, in the second case, all of them survived, but several have been injured.
And in the four days following the Oliva crash, three drivers were caught in the same province between three and six times over the alcohol limit, one also on drugs and driving the wrong way down the AP-7 motorway.
The woman who killed the Jávea cyclists, also critically injuring two others, had already been banned from driving three years previously after being caught drunk at the wheel.
Zoido says this situation needs to change before more lives are lost, and says reoffenders found to have diagnosable drug or alcohol issues may be obliged to undergo medical treatment and prevented from driving until they are 'clean'.
And if criminal proceedings against them after they cause accidents are dropped, civil proceedings will be conducted instead, to ensure the culprits never get away scot-free.
Zoido intends to increase police presence on secondary roads on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the majority of cycling accidents happen due to partygoers returning home, and wants to se up more drink- and drug-driving checkpoints in these areas at those times.
He plans to increase these checkpoints by 100,000 for alcohol and 30,000 for drugs, as well as sending out helicopters to work out which roads are the most heavily-frequented by cyclists, and when.
Full research will be carried out into the main causes and dynamics of cyclist accidents, where and when they happen, and which are the most dangerous roads and times.
An awareness campaign will include adverts featuring real-life testimonials by accident victims or their friends and family members and be broadcast on TV and radio before summer.
Saturday and Sunday mornings will soon see digital billboards set up warning drivers to watch out for cyclists, and of their obligation to leave at least a five-foot (1.5-metre) gap between their car and the nearest bike.
Zoido reminds drivers that they will not be penalised for crossing unbroken white central lines if they have to do so in order to leave a big enough gap for cyclists.
Also, he recalls that cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast.
In 2017 alone, a total of 19 cyclists have been killed on Spain's roads, of whom three were in the Oliva N-332 crash on Sunday, May 7.
And 43.1% of drivers killed in crashes had taken drugs or 'legal highs', or had been drinking alcohol, or both, Zoido reveals.
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