Bulgaria is considering removing drink-driving from its list of criminal offences in the Penal Code, so that motorists with excessive blood-alcohol levels would only face fines.
Prosecutor-General Boris Velchev said on January 20 2010 that removing driving under the influence of liquor from the Penal Code, along with other offences like unauthorised tree-felling and selling goods lacking excise labels, would reduce the bureaucratic burden on the system.
In each case, the relevant authorities would issue fines, Velchev said.
In 2009, drink-driving convictions added up to close to 30 per cent of all court cases in Bulgaria. The Justice Ministry is currently debating various proposals to streamline Bulgaria’s justice system, which has been criticised repeatedly abroad and in the country for being hamstrung by delays, inefficiency and red tape.
The idea of decriminalising drink-driving got a hostile reaction from Bulgaria’s Association of Insurers and People Injured in Traffic Accidents.
The association’s chairperson, Vladimir Dimitrov, said in mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa on January 21 that Bulgarians lacked the required self-control and conscientiousness to stop themselves taking the wheel when drunk.
Military Medical Academy head Stoyan Tonev said that drink-drivers should be fined only if they had committed no other offence. Fines for driving while drunk should be handed down according to a scale based on the income of the offender, Tonev said.
Repeat offenders should be made to do community work in hospitals or cemeteries, Tonev said.
In a separate story, Bulgarian-language daily Trud said on January 16 2010 that the National Union of Driving Instructors had asked that the legal for driving a car be reduced to 16, the same age in the United States and some European countries.
The head of the union, Milena Todorova, said that the people of that age should be eligible to get provisional driving licences entitling them to drive under the supervision of a licenced driver.
Todorova said that the union also wanted to see Bulgaria scrap the requirement that candidates for driving licences have a minimum of primary school education.