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Should cars be fitted with alcohol sensors?

Driver slumped over steering wheel wearing tshirt that says don't drive drunkEvery car should be fitted with a breathalyser that allows the vehicle to start only if the driver is under the legal blood alcohol limit, a former government drugs adviser says.

In a new book, Drugs – Without the Hot Air, Professor David Nutt claims that his 'alcolock' proposal would lead to a sharp fall in alcohol-related road accidents and fatalities.

Professor Nutt is currently president of the British Neuroscience Association and a professor at Imperial College, London.

'Terrible accidents'

He told the BBC: "Everybody would have to breathe in to the device before they were able to drive away.

"You hear about terrible accidents when four or five young people die simultaneously in the one car because the driver’s been drunk.

"It could save a lot of lives."

Professor Nutt said this idea was already in use in some other countries.

From July, all motorists in France will have to carry a breathalyser kit in their car by law or face a fine of 11 Euros (about £9).

Motorists heading to the country this summer should be warned that France's drink driving laws are stricter than in the UK.

Fines can be imposed for levels of 50mg alcohol in 100ml of blood, while in Britain the lower limit is 80mg per 100ml.

TIP: Try the alcohol units calculator to work out which drinks are likely to push you over the limit.

Lack of support

But motoring experts said Professor Nutt’s idea would be impractical.

Motor lawyer Jeanette Miller, partner at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, said: "I think it would be misguided to introduce this measure.

"Handheld devices are not without their problems and overreliance on them could actually criminalise an otherwise law-abiding driver by telling them they are safe to drive when they are not.

"The handheld breathalyser could be a useful tool to some drivers getting in a car the morning after a night’s drinking when they may be a borderline case.

"However, to make it compulsory to carry one in the car as in France is not, in my view, the answer."

Edmund King, president of the AA, added: "There is a voluntary scheme of 'alcolocks' at the moment but I don’t think Professor Nutt’s plan is practical.

"Our message is that no one who drives should drink.

"If that message gets across and the police target drink-drivers and breathalyse more people, then you don’t need new devices."

Nutt controversy

Professor Nutt was appointed chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is part of the Home Office, in 2008.

But he was sacked the following year in a media outcry after he published an article which stated that taking the banned drug ecstasy carried no more risk than riding a horse.

In his new book, Professor Nutt has made a number of further suggestions designed to reduce the social costs of drinking.

These included shorter licensing hours, and obliging retailers to sell non-alcoholic beers alongside the real thing.

What do you think?

Are you in favour of 'alcolocks' on cars or do you disagree?

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris

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