How Alcolocks Will Stop Drink Driving

Drink driving has long been described as a plague of British motoring and in light of new, alarming figures, ways to combat the scourge are being fast-tracked.

Of the many ideas mooted, the introduction of Alcolocks seems to carry most support. And the clamour for an effective deterrent has grown to such an extent, they could be rolled out as early as next year.

But what are alcolocks exactly and how do they work? Moreover, will they stop the rising number of incidents involving drunk drivers?

Alcohol Ignition Interlocks

You don’t have to look too far to find examples of Alcohol Ignition Interlocks, to give them their full title. Indeed, Seat fitted all its Leon Cristobal models with the device as far back as 2017 and in doing so charted a course many now appear certain to follow.

They are, quite simply, a modified form of a breathalyser.

In order to fire up an engine, drivers are required to blow into a plastic tube so the car – as opposed to a policeman - can monitor the level of alcohol in their system.

Should that be above the legal limit the engine is immediately immobilised and both the vehicle and passenger sit stationary.

While some models allow for further attempts, others automatically lock the car for a period of 24 hours. That’s some disincentive.

The Department of Transport called for evidence as to the effectiveness of alcolocks last year and is now seemingly convinced of their merits.

The need for preventative measures has been laid bare by new statistics pointing to a rise in drink driving.


Rising Cases

In 2017 there were a reported 5,700 accidents on UK roads involving drunk drivers. It’s been revealed this number rose to 5,890 in 2018, representing a 3% increase.

Stopping that trend is a priority for ministers and highways agencies alike.

Right now, 1 in 20 collisions involves at least one person who is over the limit.

Further analysis has found that 80% of offenders are male but it’s women who are most at risk.

A fascinating study conducted by the Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Centre, found that females are more likely to suffer from fatal injuries because test dummies used to improve safety measures are almost always based on the male physique.

This theory is one backed up by government research that revealed despite being involved in roughly 20% of drink-drive incidents, women make up 34% of fatalities.

Thankfully deaths as a whole fell from 250 to 240 in the aforementioned 12-month period but that remains far too high, hence the appeal of alcolocks.

Previous Offenders

It’s now a matter of when, not if they will be introduced but a host of other questions still remain. The most pressing of those is whether or not they will become mandatory.

Early reports suggest not. The idea is, initially at least, only previous offenders will be legally required to have them fitted.

That said, Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at AA, has claimed all new and existing cars within the EU will be required to have alcolock technology within four years. Of course, Britain no longer falls under that umbrella but has made no secret of its desire to remain in-step with its continental partners on all matters motoring.

Another justifiable concern is whether the system can be cheated or overridden, with the help of a sober passenger.

To combat this, eye monitors will form a big part of the overall setup and rule out deception.

In the case of the Leon Continental a seatbelt must also be worn before the engine starts up.

The results of the breathalyser test are shown on the accompanying infotainment screen and should they fall foul of the legal limit, incumbents will be given the option to telephone a taxi from the car itself.

So convinced were they of the effectiveness of alcolocks, Seat stated deaths on European roads would be cut by 40% were everyone driving one of their models- or one with similar technology.

We may be about to learn how accurate a prediction that was.


Other Measures

Alcolocks may dominate media coverage but they are just part of a wider push to curb drink driving in this country.

It’s already been confirmed that police will be issued with new, advanced breath tests providing more accurate readings. There is also talk of the long-established drink drive limit being reduced as yet a further deterrent.

This currently stands at 80mg per 100 millilitres of blood. Back in 2014 Scotland chose to reduce their maximum to 50mg per 100 millilitres and those south of the border are at least debating whether to follow suit.

Eliminating drink driving completely is clearly a priority not just for this country, but those around the world. From 2021 alcolocks will play a key role in an all-out assault to bring accidents and fatalities down. We’ll soon all be familiar with them. 


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