Alcolocks should be utilised in the campaign to stop habitual drink-drivers. These are the recommendations of a new report from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) .

Alcohol interlocks require the driver to blow into a breath-testing instrument connected to the vehicle ignition system. The vehicle will only start if the driver passes the alcohol breath test. The alcohol limit on the machine is normally set close to zero rather than at the official legal limit.

One too many

The report – ‘Locking out the drink driver’ – finds that one on six drink driving offences is committed by a reoffender in the UK.

The report looked at the use of alcohol interlocks around the world. It found that they are significantly more effective than licence disqualification at reducing reoffending.

Currently, the UK relies on media campaigns, penalties, driving bans and police enforcement. However, the number of deaths caused by offenders remains unchanged since 2010 – 240 each year. Repeat offenders make up a significant proportion of offences.

The report recommends that the courts are given powers to offer or mandate alcohol interlocks for many drink drivers. A reduced period of licence disqualification for those offenders who agree to a device being fitted could help the scheme. However, the report notes this reduction in periods of disqualification should not apply to drivers convicted of causing death or serious injury by drink driving.

It also says offenders should be responsible for the costs of the interlock programme. This is typically around £1,000 a year.

The estimated cost for a convicted offender who loses their job, and pays legal fees, fines and the cost of public transport, is £70K.

Unpleasant hangover

David Davies, executive director of PACTS, said: “We were shocked to find that one in six drink driving offences is committed by someone previously convicted.

“Since 2010, this amounts to over 100,000 offences – each of which is highly dangerous to the driver and other road users. Clearly the current system is not adequate.”

If combined with rehabilitation courses, the benefits can last long after the device is removed, comments the report.

“A number of other countries have introduced alcohol interlocks to prevent repeat drink driving and to bring down the number of deaths and injuries that result,” said Davies.

Reoffending is a major concern. Since 2010, 32,025 people committed a drink drive offence with a previous drink/drug drive offence on their record. Eight of these  were convicted of causing death by careless driving when unfit through drink.

High percentage proof

Dräger Safety UK welcomed today’s publication of the PACTS report into the use of interlock devices.

“We believe that the time is right to try something different to reduce these avoidable fatalities,” says Graham Hurst, marketing manager Impairment at Dräger.

“The experience of our colleagues in countries which already incorporate interlock devices into rehabilitation programmes is that they have a clear impact on deterring drink driving.”

YouGov research, commissioned by Dräger, shows that there is strong public appetite for alcolock fitment to offenders vehicles.

More than four in five respondents (83%) say they support this. More than half (56%) agreed they should be introduced for first time offenders.

“This public endorsement and the publication of today’s report, suggests that there is a recognition that we need to take action to stop persistent offenders putting other road users at risk,” added Hurst.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, also welcomes the report’s conclusions: “The evidence is clear. Nearly all motorists want new cars fitted with alcolocks to help stop the daily carnage on UK roads from drink driving and this latest PACTS report is even further endorsement.”

Research by IAM RoadSmart of over 2,000 motorists shows 90% support from motorists to fit alcolocks in all new cars.

2022 onwards sees all new cars in Europe sold with ‘alcolock enabled’. It is then up to the Government to decide how they will be used.
PACTS is calling on the Government to give UK courts the powers to impose them without delay.