RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 15- Brazil’s tougher laws against drunk driving seem to be paying off as the number of road deaths dropped 18 percent during the Carnival holiday from last year, China’s Xinhua news agency reported quoting the government as saying on Thursday.
According to the Federal Highway Police, 157 traffic deaths were reported on Brazil’s federal highways during this year’s Carnival holiday, down from 192 last year. The overall number of road accidents also dropped 10 percent to 3,149. The decrease is even more significant considering the rise of Brazil’s vehicle numbers — from 70.5 million to 76 million during last year.
Brazil first toughened its laws against drunk driving in 2008 to combat the second biggest killer in the country. In December 2012, the government introduced even stricter rules, along with more patrols and highway police presence.
“There was a great effort from the government to reduce the number of accidents and deaths, and to seek a less disheartening situation this holiday,” said Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo.
“And if anyone thinks this strictness will end after the Carnival, forget it. Whoever drinks and drives will be punished,” he added, stressing that the government will take more steps to discourage drunk driving. The current road rules stipulate that drivers found with even the smallest trace of alcohol in their systems could have their licenses suspended and must pay a fine equivalent to 1.5 times of minimum monthly wages. The fine would be doubled if the driver is caught drunk driving again within a year.