New breathalyser to trap hundreds more motorists

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Hundreds more motorists face prosecution for drink- driving under Government plans to introduce a new "super-breathalyser".

The one-stop breath test will allow motorists to be convicted for drink-driving offences without the necessity of visiting a police station. Under the present law the roadside test is inadmissible so a second reading has to be obtained from an Intoximeter at the police station.

The Home Office said yesterday that development was under way for a breathalyser capable of giving accurate readings and which could be used against drivers in a magistrates' court. The change will require legislation, which is expected to be introduced next year.

Although 800,000 road tests are done each year, fewer than 100,000 drivers end up in court. Last Christmas police tested nearly 15,000 people in England and Wales but only 972 were held for drink-driving offences.

Many drivers escape with a warning because police want to avoid the paperwork a further test at a police station involves. In a small number of cases delays between the two tests can lead to alcohol levels dropping to within the legal limit.

RoadPeace, the national charity for road traffic victims, said yesterday it welcomed the new breathalyser, saying that hundreds of drink-drivers were evading prosecution under the current system.

The Home Office hopes the new breathalyser will "streamline" the procedure for drink- drive testing and free more police from traffic duties.

Chief Superintendent Graham Gammon, president of the Superintendents' Association, said he welcomed the change if it stopped police officers "having to go through the huge bureaucracy" of second testing.

Under the present law anyone caught driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle commits an offence and will lose their licence if they have more than 35 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol in 100 millilitres (ml) of breath, 80 milligrams (mlg) of alcohol in 100 ml of blood or 107 mlg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine.

The roadside breath test can be used only as an indicator that a driver is over the limit. If a second, intoximeter testshows that the driver was under 50 microgrammes (mcg) of alcohol in 100 millilitres (ml) of breath they are allowed a further blood or urine test.

Now that the Government has made clear that it does not intend to lower the drink-drink levels, the super-breathalyser will give police an alternative means of cracking down on drivers who drink.

Chief Supt Gammon said there were many practical problems that would have to be "ironed out" before the super-breathalyser could be brought into service. "The new machine would have to be sophisticated enough to give readings which were as accurate on the roadside as they are when taken at the police station," he said.

A motorist whose name and address needed to be verified would still end up at the police station and there would have to be alternative transportation arrangements for drivers who tested positive at the road side.