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Home NATIONALTougher punishment for drunk driving sought
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Mon, 03 Feb, 2014 02:28:16 AM
Another citizen initiative bill gains support to place before parliament
Legislators and stake holders express opposite views on the issue
FTimes-STT Report, February 3
Inside of Finland parliament. Photo Lehtikuva.
A citizen initiatives bill seeking tougher punishment for drunk driving is expected to be placed before the parliament as it already gained the necessary signatures required from the masses. 
Although 50,000 signatures are mandatory for forwarding the citizen moves to the legislative process, the initiative has already gained more than 60,000 signatures in favour of stricter penalties for drunk driving and the lowering of the legal limit level of blood alcohol content, sources at the justice ministry said.
The citizen initiative was taken after the death of a young girl at Lapinlahti by a drunk driver in May 2012. However, it created debate among the legislators and other stakeholders.
Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen said she sees the possibility of lowering the legal alcohol limit from the current 0.5 to 0.2.
Saying the goal was to introduce a new reliable and accurate breath-testing device to be used by the police, the minister also added that she understood that tougher sentencing for drunk drivers can be regarded as a little bit unjust. 
Räsänen pointed out that the minimum sentences should be increased in cases in which drunk drivers actions causes deaths.
The legal system should also evaluate death caused by drunken driving and possibly consider such deaths as murder, according to the interior minister.
Mikko Alatalo, an MP and a member of the parliamentary transport and communication committee,  viewed that stricter penalties was not an effective means of reducing deaths on the roads. 
The legislature argues that drunk drivers had problems in their lives and would not care much about the consequences of tough sentences.
Four out of five deaths on the roads in the country are a result of driving under the influence of alcohol. Eero Blåfield from the Association of Finnish lawyers however said only 2% of the drivers in the statistics revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.2-0.5.
Anna-Liisa Tarvainen, the head of Liikenturva, an organization charged with road safety responsibilities in the country said the law already had in place tough measures for dealing with driving under influence.
The road safety boss added that the police should be empowered to intervene if they found any probable reasons, even if the level of blood alcohol content was lower than the legal limit.
Tarvainen added that the police should be authorized to suspend driving.
She however reminded that drunk drivers themselves die in drunk-driving related accidents.  
Although a number of citizen initiatives bill have been placed before parliament after collecting more than 50,000 signatures each, all of them have been rejected by the House.
On November 26, 2013, a citizen initiatives bill seeking softened parliamentary measures regarding online copyright charges was placed in parliament for being enacted as a law. 
The parliament on May 19, rejected the bill that sought to ban fur farming which activists said was a form of cruelty on wild animals.
The bill was placed before the House after the citizen initiative demanded the ban after collecting more than 70,000 signatures in favour of forbidding such farming.
The fur farming industry owners were accused of cruelty on caged animals to produce fur. The House rejected the bill by 146 votes to 36.
Another proposal for legalization of same-sex marriage was submitted in the parliament in March this year but, was rejected in a narrow margin before placement.
Meanwhile, another citizen initiative seeking referendum on continuation of Finland´s membership in the European Union was also foiled by a lack of support.
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