Italy's government wants to stiffen penalties for drink-driving offenders in the wake of a string of deadly road accidents that have shocked the country in recent weeks.
'Road safety has become an emergency. We will stiffen penalties for the worst violations,' Transport Minister Alessandro Bianchi was quoted as saying Monday.
Suggested government proposals include longer prison sentences for those caught driving over the limit and compulsory labels on the bottles of alcoholic beverages warning consumers not to drive when drunk.
Italy has one of the poorest road safety records and one of the highest levels of road-related deaths in Europe: 97 for every million inhabitants per year, compared with 71 in Germany and 56 in Britain.
Experts say nearly half of all road accidents take place at the weekend and about 30 to 40 per cent of them involve people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In a highly publicized case, a 30-year-old man ran over and killed a teenage girl, Claudia Muro, outside a discotheque near Turin on Saturday night.
The man, who was found to be nearly four times over the limit, had already had his driving license suspended for drink-driving offences on three previous occasions, it later emerged. He was immediately stopped by a nearby police patrol and arrested on charges of manslaughter.
That accident came just hours after a 24-year-old man had killed three children while driving drunk on the Caserta-Salerno motorway, in southern Italy.
In Bologna, meanwhile, a prosecutor recently charged with murder a man who killed a youth in a road accident. The defendant was found to have consumed cocaine and hashish and to be five times over the legal alcohol limit.
'Alcohol abuse has been a serious problem for years. The number of youths who habitually drink away from their meals, for instance, has doubled since 1994,' Health Minister Livia Turco told daily La Repubblica.
The police says the number of breathalyser tests have doubled since last year, but remain far scarcer than in countries like Britain or Denmark.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Temmuz 2007, 13:42