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Force fits cars with ignition-cutting breathalysers to curb drink driving


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Technology trial run aims to cut significant amount of road deaths.

Smart Start ignition interlock device

Smart Start ignition interlock device


Drivers will have to pass a breath test in order to start their car under a pioneering scheme introduced by Durham Constabulary.

The force has become the first in the UK to fit alcohol interlocks to cars, which stop vehicles starting if the driver is over the drink-drive limit.

The devices – which are already used the US and Denmark – will be wired up to the ignition in offenders’ vehicles on a voluntary basis.

They will also be offered free of charge to anyone in the force area who wants one.

Detective Inspector Andy Crowe said: "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.

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

The pilot is part of the force’s Checkpoint programme, which aims to divert offenders away from crime by addressing the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour.

Under Checkpoint, offenders are given a chance to avoid a criminal prosecution by taking part in an intensive four-month programme to address the root cause of their problems.

In some instances where drinking is a factor, offenders will be asked to agree to have an alcohol interlock fitted to their car as part of a behaviour contract.

Durham PCC Ron Hogg said: “The misuse of alcohol puts a massive strain on our emergency services and the financial burden alone is estimated to be in the region of £11 billion, not to mention the potentially devastating consequences for the families of those killed or injured in road traffic accidents caused by alcohol.

“The UK Government has assessed the evidence from other countries and concluded that alcohol interlocks are effective and cost-effective in reducing reoffending. 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 policy, 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 could benefit from the system to sign up through the Checkpoint programme."

The devices are wired up to the car's ignition. If drivers pass the initial test they will be asked to pull over and take it again at random intervals throughout the car journey to ensure they remain sober.

Data is passed back to monitoring officers in real time, using mobile phone technology through the dashboard, to ensure compliance.

The system is a means of forcing regular offenders to address their drinking and also takes potential drink drivers off the roads.

Manufacturer Smart Start will absorb the cost for the duration of the trial.

In County Durham, a suspected 285 road accidents have been linked to alcohol in the last three years.

Alcohol is also thought to be a significant factor in around half of all violent crimes and around 17 per cent of all domestic abuse cases.

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Just like alcolock used on some coach companies for a number of years

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