Ministers have promised ‘swifter justice’ for drink-drivers through new roadside breathalyser equipment but the technology remains unproven and will not be introduced for at least two years.
The Government is funding a competition to develop mobile evidential breath tests, which can be used in court and remove the need to take drivers to a police station to obtain an evidential sample.
Up to £350,000 will be available to encourage manufacturers to invest in devices that meet Home Office type approval requirements.
The move aims to prevent a situation where drivers who are marginally over the limit have extra time to pass a test at the station, as well as freeing up police time.
Roads minister Jesse Norman said: ‘The drink drive limit has helped to give us one of the safest road networks in the world but there is always more we can do.
‘This new mobile breathalyser technology will enable the police to enforce the alcohol more rigorously limit on those who still choose to drive after drinking, putting others at risk.'
The competition is being run by PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) in the summer and will invite companies to submit proposed technologies which will rapidly calculate the amount of ethanol in exhaled breath for use at the roadside.
PACTS executive director David Davies said: ‘PACTS strongly supports efforts to reduce drink driving and the casualties which result. The number of GB deaths involving illegal levels of alcohol has not changed significantly since 2010, while the number of serious injuries rose in 2016 to its highest since 2012.
‘Evidential roadside testing will greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of police enforcement, and we hope will lead to substantial reductions in deaths and injuries.’
The Department for Transport said it is expected police forces throughout the UK will be able to use such a device by summer 2020.
PACTS pointed out that, in its 2011 Strategic Framework for Road Safety, the Government committed to obtaining type approval for roadside evidential equipment.
It said the Home Office type approval standard that these devices must meet is the most demanding standard in the world, to ensure a high-level of accuracy and reliability that will stand up to legal challenge and meet the operational needs of the police.
It added that until now manufacturers have not invested sufficiently in devices that meet this standard but that the competition will be designed to incentivise them to do so.
The three-stage competition aims to result in one or more type approved devices that can be operated by police forces throughout the UK by July 2020, with money awarded to one or more manufacturers at each stage.