Russia set for drink-driving ban

Russian breathalyser The effectiveness of a total ban on drink-driving is disputed

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Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has approved a complete ban on drink-driving.

President Dmitry Medvedev called for the ban last December. He said allowing a small amount of alcohol in the blood encouraged drivers to consume more.

The measure is expected be approved in the upper house and become law.

Alcohol is blamed for many traffic accidents in Russia, but opponents of a total ban say that more often poor roads are to blame.

Heavy drinking is seen as one of the main reasons why one in three Russian men dies before retirement age.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass reports that Russia has one of the world's highest rates of traffic accidents linked to drink-driving.

In Russia last year more than 2,000 people were killed and around 18,000 people injured in road accidents attributed to drink-driving, Itar-Tass says.

A total ban was in force in Russia until July 2008, when the law was amended to allow alcohol content of 0.3 grams per litre of a driver's blood.

That is equivalent to roughly half a litre of beer, 40g of vodka or a glass of white wine consumed by a person weighing 80kg (176 pounds).

Duma deputy Tatyana Yakovleva, who is a doctor, said a driver with even the legal limit of blood alcohol was twice as likely to have a serious road accident, compared with an alcohol-free driver.

Opponents of the ban say most traffic accidents in Russia are due to poor roads, with drivers swerving into oncoming traffic as they try to avoid potholes.

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