Why Do Cars Still Let us Drink Drive When There is Tech to Prevent It?

By Gary Cutlack on at

It's one of those baffling modern problems that seems so easy to solve. Why can't cars have little sensors, smellers, magic eyes or something equally technologically impressive, that can smell or feel or taste alcohol on or in the driver and lock themselves up for 12 hours?

Last week, Moneysupermarket revealed Crewe to be the UK's current drink driving capital, with 1.74 per 1,000 drivers in the Cheshire town a convicted drink-driver. Last year, the crown belonged to Llandrindod Wells, with 1.98 per 1,000.

The stats seem to be slowly improving, but the outlook's still far from good, especially as the technology to stop people driving under the influence does exist. The Alcolock DS-10 will do the job, for a price, offering its corporate buyers reassurance that their untrustworthy prole employees aren't driving the fleet while drunk and therefore raising future public liability costs.


And if you've already thought of a way around this -- by bribing a child to blow into it for you --  there's a way to beat that too. The Alcolock (no relation) WR3 has the ability to record a "breath signature technology" that, apparently, locks the car to the breath of a specific individual, so there's no chance of beating the system by attaching it to a bike pump.

Plus it seems to be publicly acceptable to do so. Excelsior coaches in Bournemouth is living up to its name by requiring drivers to take a breath test before starting a shift, with the alcometer stopping its drivers from -- potentially -- taking a load of 48 pensioners over a cliff due to last night's Stella having not worn off enough.

We've also seen dash-mounted systems such as the DADDS concept pitched. That could or would check alcohol blood levels via a breath test or a touch system with the power to lock cars if limits are smashed through; although the fact that we've seen neither happen suggests the carmakers think offering such a feature would be quite the turn-off for buyers. 

And it's not just car drivers that could and should be locked out of their vehicles by technology -- cyclists have been targeted too. Japanese firm Koowho has developed the Alcoho-lock, designed to keep bikes secure lest the riders head off with an unsafe level of alcohol in their lycra-wrapped bodies. 

Or if you just need mild reassurance that in no way constitutes legal advice, there are, of course, shitloads of apps. Things like Morning After Calculator will tell/estimate/guess if you're safe to drive at 8:15am after having only stopped drinking when they ran out of real ale at 2:58am, should your stomach, head and sense of balance not already be making it perfectly obvious that you should pretend to be sick and watch Loose Women instead.

Basically what we're saying is that the technology exists to stop people driving, cycling or operating heavy machinery outside a primary school while drunk, but if you're not caught, you're still going to get away with it. So much for this "surveillance society" we're supposed to be living in, eh?