Drunk Driving Prevention Tech Explained

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Drink driving

Despite harsher penalties for drink driving in the UK, the latest figures show that approximately 85,000 people are convicted of drink driving offences in England and Wales each year. Last year there was the highest number of drink driving deaths in nearly a decade.

Last year alone saw the highest number of deaths caused by drink driving in nearly a decade. However, can vehicle manufacturers develop technology which lowers this number? We explain how drunk driving prevention technology could save lives.

What are ‘alcolocks’?

Alcolocks are breathalysers for cars, which require the driver to blow a legal reading before being able to start the engine.

A vehicle fitted with this preventative device wouldn’t work if the reading comes back as:

  • Over 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath in the UK, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Over 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath in Scotland.

The tech was tested in 2018 as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) initiative to rehabilitate convicted drink drivers.

We’re yet to see them in our own cars, although coach company National Express had them fitted to its fleet of passenger vehicles.

Besides this third party solution, manufacturers are also developing drunk driving prevention tech. This could be rolled out before alcolocks if there’s a quick turnaround to engineer the technology. It may even be a safer option to curbing drink driving for all drivers, not just those who have already been convicted of these offences.

Anti-drink driving concept car

Nissan, already a pioneer of producing safe vehicles such as the Qashqai, has revealed plans to develop what it calls a ‘drunk-driving prevention concept car’.

There’s no price, name or release date for the vehicle, hence its status as a concept. However, the Japanese manufacturer is very specific about what high tech features it will include to prevent motorists from attempting to drive after having too much to drink.


  • Alcohol odour sensors built into the gearbox – detects any alcohol in perspiration of the driver’s palm when they start to drive.
  • Driver and passenger seat sensors which detect any alcohol in the air.
  • Facial monitoring system which reads consciousness by assessing blinking speed and expression.
  • Driving detection for inattentiveness, distraction or rash movement – e.g. sensing if the car is drifting out of its lane.

The car responds by locking its transmission, issuing voice alerts with visual warnings on the satnav and automatically tightening seatbelts.

Does anti-drink driving tech already exist?

While Nissan work away in the background to develop a solution to the drink driving problem, has Volvo already got the answer?

It only takes looking at the XC60, one of the safest cars in the world, to see how existing ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) tech has the ability to tackle drink driving.

IntelliSafe and Vision 2020

Volvo’s latest collection of safety features, known as ‘IntelliSafe’, is probably the closest we are to getting vehicles which prevent drink driving.

Driver Alert Control forms a part of this system, alarming the driver through the infotainment system to take a break if driving behaviour is erratic.

A bigger part of the brand’s safety initiative, Vision 2020, is to prevent people from getting behind the wheel drunk. It aims to do this by engineering technology which uses cameras and sensors to detect drunkenness from steering input and facial expression. If this is confirmed, the car will actively intervene by limiting speed and parking the vehicle autonomously if needed.

Examples of when the technology intervenes include:

  • Slow reaction times
  • No steering input detected
  • Driver’s eyes close for a prolonged period
  • The vehicle is off road for an extensive period

Volvo on Call Assistance will also be utilised as part of the strategy. It automatically alerts emergency services if you’re involved in an accident, although the camera-based system being worked on aims to prevent any deaths or serious injuries from cars this year.

This year could see the introduction of alcolocks for convicted drink drivers, while anti-drink driving vehicles could take a little longer.

In the meantime, why not see how much you can save on the latest new models with advanced safety features with Moneyshake lease deals?

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