Durham Police are to pilot a device designed to stop drink driving in a bid to cut down on road accidents.
Drink drivers will be offered alcohol ‘interlocks’, breath-test devices which immobilise the car if the driver is over the limit.
While the voluntary and free of charge scheme is a first for the UK, the devices are already commonplace in the US and Denmark.
Detective Inspector Andy Crowe, leading the initiative, 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 interlocks mean drivers must take a breath test before they set off on their journey, and if the driver is over the limit, the car won’t start.
Drivers will also be tested at random points during the journey with the data sent to officers in real-time using mobile phone technology.
Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for Durham, 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 re-offending.
‘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 pilot is being run as part of the force’s Checkpoint programme which aims to cut crime by focusing on offenders’ behaviour.
The force said elsewhere in the world, these devices can be fitted as part of a drink driver’s sentence by the courts.
Detective Inspector Crowe added: ‘By identifying those liable to drink and drive, hopefully we can prevent them from making that potentially fatal mistake.
‘If anyone in the force area thinks they would benefit from an alcohol interlock, regardless of whether they are on the Checkpoint programme or not, please get in touch with us on our confidential number and we will fit the system for you.
‘You could prevent harm to yourselves, a loved one or a member of the wider community.’
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