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Swedish Government Contemplating Law Requiring All New Cars to Have Breath Analyzers that Would Disable Ignition by 2012

Sep 2, 2005 | In an effort to curtail drunken driving in Sweden, government officials are considering the possibility of proposing a law which would require all new cars in the country to be equipped with “ignition interlock” devices by 2012.

 According to Communication Minister Ulrica Messing, buses and other heavy vehicles may be required to have the devices installed even sooner.

Ignition interlocks are interactive devices which will prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver’s breath fails a sobriety check. It is estimated that approximately 15,000 Swedes operate motor vehicles each day while under the influence of alcohol.

The proposal will be discussed with officials of the European Union and would need to be approved by Parliament before taking effect.

The ignition interlock is not a new idea and has been available for some time. As technology has improved, many of the potential problems with early prototypes have been eliminated. Still, however, the device is subject to failures common to any piece of sophisticated electronic equipment and issues still exist as to being able to start a vehicle if the device fails as opposed to the driver being intoxicated.

There is also the problem of drivers bypassing the system by tampering with the device or by other means which would allow them to start their vehicle even if they are intoxicated.

Added cost is another consideration since it could significantly affect a vehicle’s sale price. Auto makers would certainly pass such a production expense (even if required by law) on to the customer. Still, with drunk driving being a serious problem in several countries, ignition interlocks may be an idea whose time is almost here.

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