A general view of a trailer loaded with vehicles to send to Ukraine, which were confiscated from drunk drivers, in Riga, Latvia March 8, 2023. REUTERS/Janis Laizans
By Andrius Sytas
RIGA (Reuters) – Latvia began seizing cars from heavily drunk drivers this year, and as hundreds of vehicles began overfilling impound lots, decided to send them to Ukrainian military and hospitals.
Seven cars were driven in a snowstorm onto a trailer and out of a state impound lot on Wednesday, destined for Ukraine.
Two hundred cars were taken from drivers found with blood alcohol levels over 0.15% in two months in the Baltic nation of 1.9 million people.
“It’s actually very scary when you realise how many cars are driving around with drunk drivers,” said Reinis Poznaks, founder of the NGO known as Twitter Convoy which has been tasked by the government to deliver the vehicles to Ukraine.
The two-dozen confiscated cars the state has promised to hand him each week to send to Ukraine will test the limits of his largely volunteer operation, Poznaks said.
“No-one expected that people are drunk-driving so many vehicles, they can’t sell them as fast as people are drinking. So that’s why I came with the idea – send them to Ukraine,” Poznaks said.
He laughed as he found a Russian flag pinned in one of the confiscated vehicles, left there by its owner.
Twitter Convoy has already dispatched about 1,200 vehicles, after announcing a plea for donations on Twitter days after the Russia’s invasion started on Feb. 24 last year. It raised 2 million euros ($2.1 million) for vehicle purchases, renovations, and logistics in 2022.
Latvian Finance Minister Arvils Aseradens said the government was inspired by the success of the NGO to drop attempts to auction the vehicles: “We said, well, you can take those cars … and (Poznak) says, ‘Oh, that’s very good!'”
“We are ready to do practically anything to support Ukrainians.”
At a police raid on Wednesday, where four officers closed a Riga road for half an hour to check every driver for alcohol, none was found drunk.
But 4,300 drivers were found over-the-limit on Latvia’s roads last year, police said, and were involved in almost thousand accidents in 2022.
($1 = 0.9476 euros)