Every third fatal car crash is caused by a drunk driver. In 2009 alone, almost 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-related car accidents in the United States. In the United Kingdom, there were 250 drink-drive deaths. To combat these high numbers, a British professor suggests installing alcohol testers in every car.
Under Professor’s proposal, all drivers would have to breathe into a device and be within the legal drink-drive limit before their car would start. If the motorist consumed more alcohol than allowed, the detector would prevent the vehicle from starting.
Some countries use already these alcohol ignition interlock devices to ensure that people convicted of drink-driving do not get behind the wheel. But Nutt has an even more ‘radical’ idea. “You should potentially have it so that it was true of all cars – everybody would have to breathe in [to the device] before they were able to drive away. You hear about terrible accidents when four or five young people die simultaneously in one car because the driver’s been drunk. It could save a lot of lives.”
According to Nutt, the alcohol testers should be installed as standard equipment in every motorcycle, SUV, roadster and mobility cars available on the market.
Nutt, president of the British Neuroscience Association and a professor at Imperial College in London, is being criticized for his proposal. The British Automobile Association called the idea ‘impractical’. “There is a voluntary scheme of ‘alcolocks’ at the moment but I don’t think Prof Nutt’s plan is practical,” said AA president Edmund King. “Our message is that no one who drives should drink. If that message gets across and the police target drink-drivers and breathalyse more people, then you don’t need new devices.”
The alcohol tester plan is one of seven ways Nutt suggests to reduce the harm caused by alcohol. In his new book ‘Drug – Without the Hot Air’, he proposes shorter licensing hours, compelling pubs and supermarkets to sell non-alcoholic lagers and beers alongside alcoholic drinks, and devising less dangerous alternatives such as drinks which give people a moderate “buzz”.
If the government will take his proposal into consideration is doubtful. Nutt used to be a government chief drug adviser but was sacked three years ago after publicly stating that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than LSD, ecstasy and cannabis. Ever since he has been a thorn in the side of the authorities when it comes to drugs relations. In his new book he also calls on the government to make ecstasy, cannabis and magic mushrooms freely available for study. Current regulations make it too difficult to research psychoactive drugs with potential medical uses, according to Nutt.