Alcohol interlocking device

Durham police adopt alcohol interlocks to curb drink-driving reoffenders

Image credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Police officers are to begin offering drink-drivers devices which physically prevent them from driving their car if they are found to have been drinking beforehand.

These devices – known as alcohol ignition ‘interlocks’ – work using the same breath test used by police officers to test whether drivers are over the legal blood alcohol limit. The driver must blow into a breathalyser, which can be set at different limits, and be found to be sober before they are able to start the ignition. The driver may be requested to take the test again at a convenient point in their journey. Blood alcohol concentration data is wirelessly sent to law enforcement for monitoring purposes.

According to the European Commission, in the UK the levels of enforcement of legal limits have fallen in recent years, leading to increased incidences of drink-driving. Interlocks provide a way to prevent repeat offences without the interference of a police officer.

The technology is already in use in the US, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden and New Zealand, where the fitting of an interlocker is often part of a drink-driving court sentence. The use of alcohol interlocks has been demonstrated to be 40 to 95 per cent more effective at preventing drink-driving than fines or license withdrawal, with permanent fitting proving most effective.

According to a recent EU vehicles safety standards proposal, all vehicles sold in the EU will be required to include a standardised interface to enable these interlocks to be fitted.

Now, in Durham, those found guilty of drink-driving will be offered the devices to help them kick the habit of drinking under the influence of alcohol as part of the local police force’s ‘Checkpoint’ programme to reduce reoffending. Those without prior drink-driving convictions will also be able to request a free device.

“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,” said Detective Inspector Andy Crowe, who is overseeing the project.

“A number of offenders in our area have a problematic relationship with alcohol and we hope, as part of our wider programme, this will help them address their issues.”

According to Ron Hogg, the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, misuse of alcohol puts a serious strain on emergency services at a cost of approximately £11bn.

“The UK government has assessed the evidence from other countries and concluded that alcohol interlocks are effective and cost-effective in reducing re-offending,” Hogg said in a statement. “Yet there is no legislation which would allow police forces in the UK to pilot these devices through the courts.”

“Until there is a change in national police, Durham Constabulary will use these 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.”

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