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New device breathalyses drivers before car starts

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Alice Sanderson, August 02, 2018

Drink-driving offenders in Durham are to be offered new devices that breathalyse them before they start their vehicles.

The first of its kind in the UK, the scheme uses breathalyser devices, which ‘interlock’ to immobilise the car if the driver is found to be over the legal limit.

Before starting their car, and at a random point in their journey, drivers will be required to take a breath test. The results are then sent directly to the police over a mobile network, so offenders can be instantly apprehended.

Alcohol interlocks are already common in countries such as the US and Denmark, where they can be fitted to cars by court orders as part of drink-driving sentencing.

Voluntary programme

In Durham, the devices will be offered free of charge to offenders on a voluntary basis. They are being introduced as part of Durham Police’s Checkpoint programme, which aims to cut crime by targeting offender’s behaviour.

Detective Inspector Andy Crow, who is leading the pilot scheme, said: “This really is an innovative project which is a first for the UK and will hopefully help us identify and deal with potential drink-drivers before they even get behind the wheel.

"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 UK government assessed evidence of the breathalyser’s effectiveness and found them to be a cost-effective way to reduce offending. Despite this, and the success of these devices in other countries, there is currently no legislation allowing them to be piloted through the courts.

Until policy is changed, Durham police will use them on a voluntary basis for “repeat offenders, those who have a history of problems with alcohol or anyone who thinks they could benefit from the system to sign up through the Checkpoint programme".

Policy change needed

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for First4Lawyers says: “This scheme sounds like a great idea. However, the need for it to run on a voluntary basis may mean that it is not as successful as in other countries. We hope that the government act to change policy and allow the courts to reduce drink-driving offences with devices such as these.

“They are proven to be successful elsewhere, and anything that helps reduce the drink-drive rate should be encouraged. We hope that it will be successful and will show the government that it is something that should be introduced nationwide.”