Despite 57,000 vehicle stops and hundreds of apprehensions for public drunkenness, Monaco’s police force was unable to prevent the deaths of six people caused by drink driving in the Principality last year. Now, the force is seeking tougher powers and launching new strategies to tackle this endemic issue.
2023 may well go down in history as the worst year on record for drink driving related fatalities in the Principality.
On 7th January 2023, a husband and father of two was killed on his way home from work at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort when a drunk driver behind the wheel of a 4×4 strayed on to the wrong side of the road and collided head on with his scooter.
In the early hours of 1st April 2023, three men in their 30s died when the car they were travelling in smashed into the side of the Louis II tunnel at an estimated speed of 150km per hour before bursting into flames. The maximum limit anywhere in Monaco is 50km per hour. The men had been spotted enjoying the Larvotto nightlife scene before the tragic incident and traces of drugs and alcohol were later found in the post-mortem blood samples taken from the driver.
Then, just days before Christmas on 17th December 2023, five students from the International University of Monaco were involved in a harrowing speeding accident at the exit of the Tunnel du Millenium, close to the border with Cap d’Ail, after spending the night out partying. Two young women died from their injuries, either at the scene or in hospital, while the male driver, who was later found to have been driving under the influence of alcohol, is reportedly still receiving care at the Hôpital Pasteur in Nice.
Combined, these three car accidents led to the deaths of six individuals on Monaco soil. It is believed to be the worst year on record for drink driving related fatalities in the Principality.
Added to this are the 143 people caught driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs by Monaco’s police force – an increase of nearly 24% on 2022’s numbers – and the 347 individuals collared by officers for public drunkenness and disorder, which also rose by 23% on the previous year’s data.
A plan of action
At the annual Sûreté Publique presentation in January, Richard Marangoni, the head of the Monaco Police Department, confirmed that tackling the issue of drink driving would be a priority for his force in 2024.
According to Commander Fabien Vachetta, a bill, including a raft of related proposals drawn up at the request of the force, is in the process of being finalised.
On the table is a change to police powers to allow officers to breathalyse drivers before they get behind the wheel, which is currently forbidden under Monegasque law, as well as perform checks on drivers leaving the Principality’s many nightclubs, as is done frequently in France.
An increase to the sanctions placed on those found guilty of driving under the influence has also been touted as another preventative measure.
Currently, individuals stopped and fined under Monaco’s public drunkenness and disorder rules stand to receive a €37.50 penalty, which some critics say is simply not enough to deter offenders.
For drivers caught drink driving, the punishments range from a €300 fine if they are found to have between 0.25mg and 0.39mg of alcohol per litre of exhaled air or between 0.50g and 0.79g of alcohol per litre of blood. The fine is doubled if a drink driver is taken before the court.
Should the samples return measurements equal to or exceed 0.4mg or 0.8g, drink drivers can be sentenced to six months in prison and a €9,000 fine.
Photo by Monaco Life