Page last updated:July 2016

European survey of road users’ safety attitudes

The ESRA project (European Survey of Road users’ safety Attitudes) is a joint initiative of research organisations and road safety institutes in 17 European countries aiming at collecting comparable data on road users’ opinions, attitudes and behaviour with respect to road traffic risks. With results published on 20 June, the 2015 survey examines the acceptability of impaired driving in Europe and records attitudes towards drink driving, perceived likelihood of being checked for impaired driving and prevalence of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Key results from the report:

The survey found that while a large part of the driver population is aware of the inappropriateness of driving after having consumed an impairing substance, about 3.5% expressed the opinion that driving under the influence of an impairing substance is acceptable or rather acceptable. Almost 90% of the respondents think that consumption of alcohol or drugs seriously increases the risk of an accident. The proportion of people who agree that impaired driving increases the risk of an accident is higher among women and among the oldest age group. In all countries, but to varying degrees, the respondents estimate that the ‘perceived social acceptability’ of drink-driving or drug-driving is higher than their ‘personal acceptability’. The level of acceptability for such behaviours is lower among women than men and among the oldest age group (55 years and older) than the youngest (18-34 years old).

Drink-driving in the last 12 months was reported by 31% of respondents. Belgium has the highest rates of self-reported driving after drinking and, alongside France and Switzerland, the highest levels of drinking and driving above legal limits. In comparison, Finland, Sweden and Poland had the lowest levels of self reported drinking and driving above legal levels. The percentages of respondents who had driven under the influence of an impairing substance was higher among men than women and are also higher among young adults than among the older age categories.

In the general driver population, the perceived likelihood of being checked for impaired driving is relatively low. Only 18% thought that on a typical journey, the probability of being tested for alcohol by the police is high or very high. Large differences were observed among the countries. The percentage of car drivers thinking that the chance of being checked for alcohol is high or very high is the most prevalent in Poland (44%), followed by France (29%), Slovenia (27%), Spain (24%) and Portugal (23%), Netherlands (10%), United Kingdom (9%), Ireland (9%) Germany (8%), Finland (4%), and Denmark (2%).

The report found that impaired driving is associated with several risk factors, among them: being a male, driving frequently, having the opinion that drink-driving is an acceptable behaviour, not acknowledging that drink-driving increases the risk of an accident, having the feeling that penalties concerning alcohol are too severe or having been checked by the police for alcohol at least once in the past 12 months. The report makes recommendations at EU, National and regional levels.
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