New proposals being reviewed by the government could see the introduction of ‘alcolocks’ fitted to the cars of convicted drink-drivers in a bid to reduce the number of road accidents caused by repeat offenders.
‘Alcolocks’ or to give them their formal title, alcohol ignition interlocks, work by using a breathalyser to measure the amount of alcohol in a drivers system, and if it finds that it contains more than the legal limit, (35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 22 microgrammes per 100ml in Scotland) it immobilises the engine until the driver is sober enough to drive.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has stated that it wants to look into how it might use ‘alcolocks’ as part of a number of initiatives aimed to cut the number of alcohol-related traffic incidents. In 2016, 250 people were killed in drink-driving related incidents and initial figures for 2017 have shown the numbers are likely to be as high as 330.
Whilst ‘alcolocks’ may seem new, the technology is a blend of established breathalysers and car immobilising capabilities. Durham Police undertook trials of ‘alcolocks’ in February 2018, and the 2005 Road Safety Bill includes provisions for offenders to “participate fully in an approved alcohol ignition interlock programme”.
Other countries, such as France, introduced legislation on alcolocks in March 2019, allowing motorists caught over the drink-drive limit to avoid a ban if they fit an ‘alcolock’ to their car. In USA, all 50 states have some form of ignition interlock requirement for anyone caught drink-driving.
At present, car manufacturers have not committed to installing ‘alcolocks’ to cars, with some claiming that autonomous driving capabilities will mean that car will be able to automatically take control if it detects that a driver is too drunk to operate the vehicle safely. Earlier this year, DfT announced its commitment to have self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021.
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