Taking alcohol testing to a new level

Could every car be fitted with an alcohol interlock device in the future?

Imagine if one day your car tells you you’re not okay to drive because you’ve had too much to drink!

So, okay, you may think this technology already exists and you’d be correct. Alcohol interlock devices are used in most states and territories of Australia (see below), but in this case we’re talking about an alcohol testing device installed in every car. Before you get too concerned, however, there is a caveat – the story comes from the United States.

According to HowStuffWorks, new legislation in the United States may require all new cars be equipped with alcohol testing systems by 2024. The bill was introduced to Congress this year and the senators behind the bill believe it could save 7000 lives a year.

That’s a staggering figure, but it’s backed up by figures from the US Department of Transportation, which highlight that 30 people die every day in drunk-driving-related crashes in the United States. That’s one person every 48 minutes or nearly 11000 a year!

If successful, the new bill will require automakers to implement alcohol testing technology into all new cars. However, the bill will also invest funding into research and development of “advanced alcohol detection software”, so the alcohol testing interlocks that we use today may be much improved by the 2024 deadline.

Alcohol testing interlock systems in Australia

As mentioned, most states and territories in Australia already use technology to help prevent people from driving a vehicle when they’ve had too much to drink. Alcohol testing interlocks are used as punishment and as a deterrent for people who’ve failed alcohol testing and have been cleared to start driving again.

Let’s take a look at NSW’s program as an example, thanks to Transport for NSW:

  • Currently, drivers convicted of serious drink driving offences are restricted to driving vehicles with alcohol interlock devices for a period of time when they return to driving. This ensures offenders separate their drinking from driving and do not re-offend. The program is designed to reduce drink-driving and improve safety for all road users. Under new legislation, in the future, even first time mid-range drink-driving offenders will need to have an alcohol testing interlock device fitted to their car.
  • The interlock is an alcohol testing device that is linked to the ignition system in vehicles.
  • To start the vehicle, the driver must provide a breath sample to allow the interlock to analyse for the presence of alcohol.
  • If a positive sample is detected, the vehicle won’t start.
  • In addition, the driver will need to take further alcohol tests during their journey, at random intervals.
  • The alcohol testing interlock system also includes a camera that takes images of the person providing the breath sample, to reduce the risk of a person over the legal limit from using someone else’s breath to allow them to drive.

So, are we likely to see similar legislation in Australia and alcohol testing interlock systems become mandatory for all new cars in the future? We know from roadside alcohol testing statistics that over 99% of people do the right thing and don’t drink and drive, so it’s difficult seeing the current interlock system being used on all vehicles. However, if the technology is improved considerably, it’s certainly possible in the future. But, then again, we may have driverless cars by then!

NOTE: Integrity Sampling are are agents for Draeger Interlock devices.


Could every car be fitted with an alcohol interlock device in the future? Credit Kārlis Dambrāns (image modified) https://bit.ly/2yxAytU

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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