Julie Rae

Julie Rae

Primary prevention evangelist
June 27, 2017

Interlocks: the next seatbelts?

Alcohol Drug Foundation, ADF, driving

It’s been estimated that 31% of all driver and pedestrian road deaths in Australia are alcohol-related. The number of road accidents resulting in hospitalisations due to alcohol would be even higher.

Across Australia there are various laws that apply to a person who has previously lost their licence for drink driving, requiring them to agree to use an interlocking device when they have their licence reinstated and start driving again.

Interlocks in their crudest forms rely on the driver to blow into the device, which allows the car to be driven only when the device records a reading below 0.02 BAC.

While there is criticism as to the effectiveness of these devices, technology could be developed so that a device similar in purpose could be fitted to all cars.

Imagine the costs to justice, police and health services this device would save if all cars refused to start when the driver was intoxicated above the legal driving limit.

Could mandatory interlocks have the potential revolutionise road safety– in the way seatbelts did — by preventing vast amounts of harm caused by alcohol impaired drivers? We have seen a number of innovations in car technology in recent years; from keyless entry to cars being fitted with biometric devices, for example, using your fingerprints or eyeballs to unlock and drive your car.

In their article Top 10 Advanced Car Technologies by 2020 Forbes’ online blog reported earlier this year:

 “the Ford Motor Company are previewing the idea of seatbelt or steering wheel sensors that track vital statistics, though the rapid development of wearable technology means most cars will just wirelessly pair with these devices (think cell phone for your body). Combine this with basic autonomous technology and you’ve got a car that can pull over and call paramedics when the driver has a heart attack.”

This same device could also detect a person’s blood alcohol content and lock the car from being started in the first place.

Just as the universal implementation of the seatbelt saved lives on our roads, could a device fitted to all cars do the same for those who continue to drink and drive?

It would also allow peace of mind for those who are never sure whether they are approaching the legal limit or not. More importantly it would mean that you and your loved ones aren’t driving on roads near someone whose driving is impaired by alcohol.

We do have a long way to go before the current limitations of interlocking devices are improved — these devices are certainly not capable of changing a person’s decision making.