Belfast Telegraph

In three years your new car may demand you take a breath test before driving

Breathalyser and speed-limiting technology will be introduced in cars under EU legislation
Breathalyser and speed-limiting technology will be introduced in cars under EU legislation
Breathalyser and speed-limiting technology will be introduced in cars under EU legislation
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Cars will be fitted with breathalysers and speed limiters from 2022 under new EU legislation.

The controversial rule was initially approved in March of this year but it was subsequently rubber-stamped by the European Council last week.

While it has yet to be confirmed for Northern Ireland, road safety charities have said it's very likely to be rolled out across the whole of the UK because the Government has agreed to mirror EU road safety rules after Brexit.

A spokesperson for the European Transport Safety Council said breathalysers and speed limiters will become the industry norm within five years.

"New models of car sold in Europe from 2022 will need an interface which enables an alcohol interlock to be fitted if, for example, required by a fleet operator or law enforcement," they said.

New cars will also be fitted with 'Intelligent Speed Assistance' software, which can prevent drivers from speeding. The system uses GPS data and limits from traffic cameras to automatically reduce the car's speed if the driver is exceeding the limit.

All new cars launched from 2022 will have to have the technology fitted while models already on sale will have to comply with the rules by 2024. The rule has been met with a mixed response, with some praising the new technology as the way forward, while others have reacted with scepticism.

Speaking ahead of Road Safety Week, Sam Nahk from road safety charity Brake said it was great news that alcohol interlock compatibility and speed limiting technology will be mandatory.

"Drink-driving is illegal, dangerous and puts lives at risk," Mr Nahk said. "Drivers must know that getting behind the wheel after drinking can have potentially devastating consequences.

"The current drink-driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive - this is a dangerous message and one that couldn't be further from the truth."

Timo Harakka, of the European Council, said the news was very positive. "These new rules will help us to reduce significantly the number of fatalities and severe injuries," he added.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) RoadSmart, said that most law-abiding drivers would not be affected by the breathalyser technology.

"Speed limiters will still be voluntary so you don't have to use them but they could save your licence," he said. "Although all new cars from 2022 will be enabled to have an alcolock it will be up to the UK government to decide how they are used.

"We see them as a useful tool for repeat drink-drive offenders to get them back to safe driving after a ban. It is very unlikely that the vast majority of the law abiding public will ever have to blow in a tube to start their car."

But AA president Edmund King, who was more cautious about welcoming the news, warned that drivers shouldn't rely solely on the technology while on the roads.

"Drivers sticking religiously to the speed limit still face the threat of smartphone zombies and other unwary road users stepping out in front of them or drunk or distracted drivers crashing into them," he said.

"Technology will play a part but drivers should not rely solely on computers and cameras to drive their cars for them. Until fully autonomous vehicles are on the roads, drivers must keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel."

Inspector Rosie Leech said: "Considering that excess speed for the conditions and driving while impaired through drink or drugs are two of the four main causes of the most serious collisions in which people are killed and seriously injured on roads across Northern Ireland, police are always keen to discuss any proposal that could have a positive impact on road safety."

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