According to the Interior Ministry's statistics, almost 10,000 traffic accidents in 2002 were caused by drunk drivers or pedestrians. Alcohol on the roads was responsible for 136 deaths and more than 5,000 injuries last year. To increase awareness of the dangers of drunk driving, the road safety department of the Interior Ministry has launched the largest ever information campaign in this country, which is to last until the end of January next year. Also, it is the first time such a campaign is being co-financed by producers of alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic is quite high but the information campaign is not directed against the consumer or against alcohol as such, the organisers say. It is about responsibility - if you have been drinking, do not sit behind the wheel.
Billboards, TV and radio ads warn drivers of the risk of drunk driving and the organisers also promise new and unorthodox forms of advertising aimed at encouraging a responsible attitude to alcohol and driving. What is also new - at least in this country - is the fact that the Interior Ministry's campaign is partly sponsored by alcohol producers and distributors. They are the Responsible Beer Producers Initiative and a recently established forum called "Drink Sensibly" which takes inspiration from similar organisations abroad. Ms Carole Brigaudeau works for The Amsterdam Group (TAG), an alliance of Europe's leading alcohol producers, who work together with governments and other interested groups to address problems related to excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol.
"Our licence to operate is perfectly legitimate. These companies are here to produce and sell. But I really see commitment from these companies that it is not to produce and sell at any expenses. They are really committed to fight drink driving, they are really committed to fight underage drinking. Bad publicity is not in their interest - because every time there is an accident caused by alcohol, all the newspapers cover it. I think it's no good for any company to be in the newspapers for that reason and this is something the drinks industry has really acknowledged for long now."
The seven companies united in the "Drink Sensibly" forum are all leading producers and importers of alcoholic beverages and their overall market share in the Czech Republic is about 50 percent. They have agreed on a code of ethics in advertising of alcohol and have pledged to cooperate with the state administration, health care establishments and similar organisations to their own to combat the abuse of alcohol and promote reasonable consumption.
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