New breath testers to combat drink driving

June 13 2018  

New breath testers to combat drink driving

Breathalyser technology that allows police officers to instantly gather legal evidence of drink driving at the roadside is set to be brought forward following the launch of a Government funding competition.

Road safety campaigners have called for the use of ‘mobile evidential breath tests’ for years, but until now manufacturers have not invested in devices that meet the rigorous Home Office type approval standards.

As a result police are currently required to take suspected drink drivers back to the police station to obtain an evidential sample, during which time they may have ‘sobered up’ or passed below the drink drive limit.

To combat this, the Government has granted £350,000 to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) to run a competition incentivising the development of roadside tests that meet Home Office requirements.

It is hoped that this will allow officers to gather on the spot proof that stands up to legal challenge, while helping to free up police time and resources.

“This new mobile breathalyser technology will enable the police to enforce the alcohol limit more rigorously on those who still choose to drive after drinking, putting others at risk,” said Roads Minister Jesse Norman.

The competition will invite applicants to submit proposed technologies this summer, with forces throughout the UK expected to be able to use the new devices by July 2020.

PACTS executive director David Davies said: “Evidential roadside testing will greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of police enforcement, and we hope will lead to substantial reductions in deaths and injuries.

“The number of deaths on roads in Great Britain involving illegal levels of alcohol (240 a year) has not changed significantly since 2010, while the number of serious injuries involving alcohol rose in 2016 to its highest since 2012.”

A spokeswoman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “The potential development of a mobile evidential breath testing instrument would be a great asset to operational officers.

“This could offer the opportunity to speed up evidential standard investigations at the roadside and free up officers quicker to resume their patrols. The service would welcome such a device which could make their work more efficient, and provide greater opportunity to keep the roads safe.”

♦ Investigation teams dedicated to analysing the cause of road collisions will be deployed later this year after the RAC Foundation received £480,000 from Government for a pilot scheme.

Trials will see in depth research carried out into selected road casualty cases, in an approach resembling the rail, maritime and aviation sectors’ accident investigation branches.

The money will be spent helping police forces to recruit additional staff to collect and collate collision data, which will then be analysed to identify and understand common themes and patterns that result in death and injury on the public highway.

“This project is aimed at testing whether there is value to be gained from taking a different, systematic, national approach to the analysis of road crash data, drawing on the best practice of the accident investigation branches for rail, maritime and aviation,” said RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding.

The announcement follows calls for a road accident investigation branch to be set up by a number of road safety groups.

Brake’s director of campaigns Joshua Harris said: “We must ensure that we have a strategic evidence led approach to road safety policy in the UK, which doesn’t shy away from the tough decisions. We owe it to all road crash victims that the mistakes which led to their deaths will not be repeated.”

(Photo: West Midlands Police)

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