Russian authorities are considering making it compulsory for all new cars sold there to be equipped with alcohol breath test “interlock” devices – whether or not the buyer has a history of drink driving.
In Australia, states and territories mandate the fitment of breath test “interlock” devices to cars owned by repeat drink driving offenders.
The devices – which require drivers to exhale into a tube to prove they are not intoxicated – are fitted at the driver’s expense.
Russia’s radical proposal to have breath test “interlock” devices fitted to all new cars has been suggested amid little to no enforcement of drink driving rules there.
However Russia does impose harsh penalties for drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes.
In Russia, a driver faces up to 15 years in prison if deemed to be driving while drunk and causing an accident that kills two or more people.
The proposed rollout of breath test alcohol “interlocks” on all new cars sold in Russia has divided authorities there.
Some officials are in favour of such a program, while others say the technology needs to become more affordable before it is mandated across all new vehicles.
The requirement also does not address drunk drivers who could avoid the technology by continuing to drive an older car.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, alcohol consumption in Russia has been in decline following a clamp down home-made alcohol, and as increased taxes over the past decade have made spirits more expensive. The WHO figures showed a 43 per cent in alcohol consumption from 2003 to 2016.
However, Russia still has among the highest rates of road deaths in Europe, with 17,000 fatalities reported last year alone.
News agency Reuters – based on a report by Russia’s Kommersant newspaper – said the country is “looking at ways to encourage manufacturers to install (breath testing interlocks) in vehicles fresh off the production line”.
It will follow a similar proposal by the European Union, which wants to mandate alcohol interlocks from 2022. However, for now certain countries are mandating the devices only on vehicles owned by repeat drink driving offenders.
“Past Russian government pushes to have alcohol interlocks deployed in Russia have been unsuccessful,” the news agency Reuters reported.
Despite a political will “it’s not yet practical to introduce alcohol locks en masse”, reported European news website RT.com.
The website quoted Vyacheslav Lysakov, a member of Russia’s parliamentary committee on State Construction, as saying: “There is no regulatory framework, there are no standards, and no infrastructure for servicing alcohol locks. At the moment, [the proposal] is like drones and flying taxis. We will have it someday, but for now we are getting ahead of ourselves.”
In Australia, laws permitting police to conduct random roadside breath testing were introduced in Victoria in 1976, though it was not enforced on a mass scale in the state until the mid to late 1980s.
Widespread, mass scale random breath testing started in NSW in 1982. Since then, trauma from fatal crashes involving alcohol has dropped from about 40 per cent of all fatalities to about 15 per cent.
Police across Australia conduct more than 11 million random roadside breath tests each year. Police in NSW breath test about 5 million drivers annually, compared to 3 million each in Victoria and Queensland. Other states and territories also test millions of drivers.
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