Durham Police has become the first force in the UK to pilot alcohol interlocks, in an effort to crack down on repeat drink-drive offenders. (BBC News)
The device, which is already commonplace in countries including the US and Denmark, requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting the vehicle.
If the driver is found to be over the legal alcohol limit – which in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath – the vehicle is immobilised.
The alcohol interlock initiative forms part of Durham Police’s ‘Checkpoint’ programme, which aims to reduce reoffending rates.
According to BBC News, in some instances where drinking is a factor, offenders will be asked to agree to have an alcohol interlock fitted to their car as part of a ‘behaviour contract’.
Detective inspector Andy Crowe, Durham Police, said: “A number of offenders in our area have a problematic relationship with alcohol and we hope, as part of a wider programme, this will help them address their issues.”
The trial is being funded by Smart Start – a Texas-based company that provides services and technologies that ‘prevent intoxicated drivers from operating a vehicle’.
In Belgium, alcohol interlocks became mandatory for high-level and repeat drink-drive offenders from 1 July.
Earlier this year, a report by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) concluded that alcohol interlocks should be fitted in all new vehicles used by professional drivers – and retrofitted to cars used by repeat drink-driving offenders.
The ETSC report, published in February, looks at how to reduce the 5,000 deaths caused annually by drink-driving in the European Union.