Drink driving blow | 

Breathalysers will be fitted on new cars to reduce deaths on Irish roads

Alcohol interlocks will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver is over the limit
The breathalyser will prevent car starting

The breathalyser will prevent car starting

Alan Sherry

New vehicles will be fitted with alcohol interlocks as part of a raft of measures designed to reduce deaths on Irish roads.

The breathalyser devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver is over the limit, are already being used in some countries for professional drivers or for people who have been convicted of drink driving.

Under new EU regulations, all new vehicles over the coming years will have to be fitted with interfaces allowing alcohol interlocks to be fitted to cars.

Road Safety Authority spokesman Brian Farrell told the Sunday World they are being considered in Ireland as part of measures to reduce road deaths by 50 per cent by 2030.

Some countries are already using interlocks

Some countries are already using interlocks

"We have to look at drink driving through the profile of drink drivers out there," he said.

"There are people out there who will take a chance and they wouldn't ordinarily do it. If you have one you're impaired and you're not making rational decisions and you might have more after that.

"Those people who I'd describe as taking a stupid, silly chance, they're at risk of losing their licence. Every drink driving offence carries an automatic disqualification.

"There is another cohort of drink drivers who are problem drinkers and drink driving is a symptom of a problem which is alcohol abuse.

"So it's not as simple as saying 'don't drink and drive' because these people have a problem. It's about recognising these people have a problem and looking at interventions. That's something that's outlined in the Government's new road safety strategy.

It's looking at measures to tackle those recidivist offenders in relation to drinking and driving and tackling the problem they may have.

"You're looking at things like alcohol interlocks on the vehicle and drink driving awareness programmes as part of how to deal with that particular group and also looking at medical fitness to drive guidelines as well.

"I don't think you can just lump all drink drivers into the one group."

He said European directives means a whole raft of new road safety measures are going to be become standard on new cars over the next few years.

"You have things like lane detector proximity, interfaces which allow alcohol interlocks to be fitted. The technology in vehicles is moving in that direction if individual countries want to apply.

"There are already some employers out there who operate fleets and they have alcohol interlocks on their vehicles."

Several other EU countries are already using alcohol interlocks or are in the process of bringing them in.

In Poland, drivers who are caught drink driving may ask the court for their driving ban to be replaced with an alcohol interlock after at least half of the driving ban period has passed. If they had a lifetime driving ban, they can apply for an alcohol interlock after at least 10 years.

France also uses alcohol interlocks as an alternative to licence suspension and follow it up with an addiction consultation. Alcohol interlocks are also used on buses on coaches there. Other countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Austria also have similar programmes.

Spain will see new laws come into effect this year which will require alcohol interlocks on vehicles which carry eight or more people.

"We want to reduce deaths by 50 per cent over the next decade and by 2050 eliminate all deaths on our roads," said Mr Farrell.

He said another measure being looked at is establishing an online portal where road users can upload videos of dangerous driving.

"You hear the gardai any time there is a crash appealing for dashcam footage to come forward to assist with the investigation and potentially prosecution.

"It's something that's being done already and if it can be extended to help with dangerous driving out there on the roads, I think that can only be a very positive step."

He said such a measure could lead to drivers improving their behaviour if they knew they were being watched.

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