Breathalyser Reaches 50
by Jonathan Clensy |
posted 12 October 2017
It was in October 1967 that the Police carried out the first roadside breath test on a motorist, as it happens, in Shropshire. Prior to that, the criteria for prosecution were somewhat less scientific – a judgement made by the attending officer based on whether the motorist could touch their nose with their eyes shut, walk in a straight line or even, stand on one leg.
Back in 1967, there were 1,640 road fatalities attributed to alcohol. Since then, there's been an eight-fold reduction in the number of deaths whilst there has been a dramatic increase in car ownership. But, according to the latest statistics from the Department for Transport, 200 people a year still die in accidents where at least one driver is over the alcohol limit.
"It seems remarkable now that the new law was greeted with outrage in some quarters, with publicans heckling the then Transport Minister, Barbara Castle, accusing her of damaging their trade," comments Hunter Abbott, Advisor to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) and Managing Director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense Laboratories.
"In the first 12 months alone, there were 1000 fewer deaths and 11,000 fewer serious injuries on the roads - proving that the use of the 'drunkometer' was both necessary and justified".
Still Some Cause for Concern
Police carried out over half a million (520,219) roadside breath tests in 2015, the lowest number since data collection began in 2002. However, final figures for 2015 show a 9% increase in the number of seriously injured casualties - from 1,070 in 2014 to 1,170 - the first rise since 2011. And, the total number of casualties in drink-drive accidents for 2015 was 8,470 – up 3% on the previous year.
More than 60,000 drivers (one in eight of those tested) failed or refused to take the test. Men were twice as likely as women to fail a breath test, a trend that was consistent across all age groups according to the report.