Alcohol ignition interlocks (alcolocks) are devices that require the driver to take a breath test before starting the car. If the driver fails the test, the device locks the ignition so the engine will not start.
Alcolocks are most commonly used to prevent drink driving offenders from committing further violations. They are placed in vehicles of convicted drink drivers as part of a reinstatement requirement or a restricted driving license. Experiences in the US and Canada have shown that alcolock schemes can lead to 40-95% reductions in the rate of drink driving repeat offences (ICADTS report, 2001).
In Europe, Sweden has run a pilot project in three different counties in which offenders were permitted to keep on driving on the condition that they have alcolocks installed in their vehicles. In another demonstration project, a number of Swedish transport companies (taxi, bus, goods transport) voluntarily installed interlocks in their vehicles as part of their quality assurance efforts.
The UK, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany and Spain have also shown interest in testing the technology (EU feasibility study, 2001). In the Netherlands there are plans to use alcohol interlocks as part of driver rehabilitation schemes from 2007.
New moves in industry include the news that SAAB is developing a pocketsize "Alcokey" which will be sold as an accessory.
SWOV: Alcohol Interlock Implementation in the European Union - feasibility study (2001)
International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS): Position Paper on Alcohol Interlocks (2001)
Traffic Injury Research, Ontario: Alcohol interlock as a tool for treating the hard core drink driver