by Claire Quinlan
The government has announced its intentions to use new roadside breathalysers in a further move to catch motorists caught drink driving, with plans to have the new devices in use by 2020.
Currently the breath test for drink driving is carried out in two stages: if a driver tests positive at the roadside they are arrested and taken to a police station where a further test (the evidential test) is administered, which forms the basis of any prosecution decision.
However with this existing procedure there is the risk that by the time the driver takes the second breath test at the police station they could blow a negative reading, as a result of alcohol levels falling over time.
Approximately 6000 motorists provide a positive reading at the roadside but when tested at the police station are found to be under the limit; by using the new breathalysers these people are more likely to face prosecution.
‘Back calculation’ laws can be used to counteract the above situation, which involve a forensic toxicologist carrying out a process to determine a person’s alcohol content at an earlier point in time. However the evidence base is such that they are seldom used for this scenario and as a result some drink drivers go free.
Although the legislation allowing for a definite roadside evidential breath test is already in place, the government is aiming to have suitable devices approved and in use within the next couple of years by running a competition aimed at manufacturers to bring a new breathalyser to the market.
The new measures will also see a reduction in ‘loophole defences’ which have arisen due to how complex police station procedures can be.
Figures show that approximately 460,000 breath tests were carried out in 2016, with a positive reading or a refusal to take the test given by around 59,000 people.
The penalties for drink driving can include periods of disqualification ranging from 12 months to five years, a fine which in some cases is an unlimited amount, custodial sentences and a significant effect on insurance premiums, as well as the possibility of a loss of employment.
If you have committed a drink driving offence and need some advice contact our motoring experts on 0800 046 3066