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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Should random breath tests be introduced?
Police should carry out random breath tests as a matter of course, according to the European Commission.

Under existing laws, UK police can only carry out a breath test if they believe the driver has been drinking.

But the European Commission wants all member states to allow its police to carry out random tests.

The Home Office said introducing random testing was "inefficient in catching drink-drive offenders.

Should random breath tests be introduced? Are they an effective deterrent?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far.

Far too many people drink near the legal limit
Chris Bishop, Kettering, UK
Of course random tests should be used. Far too many people drink near the legal limit not realising that they may unwittingly go over the limit. Random tests would mean that everyone who drinks and drives may get stopped and tested. Of course the real answer is zero tolerance. If you drink you don't drive at all.
Chris Bishop, Kettering, UK

The problem with picking people at random is that you are taking the risk that many drink drivers will not get picked out - why not just breath-test everyone who drives away from Pubs? And anyone else who drives erratically but doesn't fail a mandatory breath-test(apart from learner drivers) should have their cars confiscated on the spot.
John, Newcastle, England

The police should not only be doing random tests for alcohol but also for drugs.
Chris Turner, Surbiton, UK

Anything that is going to cut down the number of accidents and people killed from drink driving is a blessing, however slight, therefore the random tests should go ahead.
Susan Bennet, Aberdeen, UK

There shouldn't be a single comment here which is against random breath tests. If you don't drink and drive then you have nothing to worry about. We can only feel safer that this can reduce the vast number of road deaths and accidents caused by drink driving. If you had been a victim in the past would you be against it?
Phil, Chester

The police need more resources not more laws
Peter, Birmingham UK
In practice, the police already have this power, they can stop anyone anytime on suspicion and breathalyse them. They can (and do) set up road blocks to check for stolen cars and if they suspect a driver of having been drinking, breathalyse him. The reality is the police need more resources not more laws. What practical purpose would a new law serve?
Peter, Birmingham UK

Yes, but only if those who give a positive sample are handed out an appropriate penalty, i.e. lifetime driving ban, massive fine and confiscation of their vehicle.
Neil Wallace, Sheffield, England

Why not bring in the same system as the Norwegians have? Rather than random breath tests, lower the amount we're allowed to drink to say a quarter a unit of alcohol, if you're found to be over the limit it's an automatic 30 days in jail. No ifs or buts and this would be a clear deterrent and would make most people think twice.
Graham, Portsoy, Scotland

I already thought the police had these powers and was perfectly happy about it.
BS McIntosh, UK

Random breath testing without reasonable grounds for suspicion is very much a presumption of guilt
Iain, Cambridge, UK
No, no and no. Random breath testing without reasonable grounds for suspicion is very much a presumption of guilt. That is not the way our system of justice is supposed to work.
Iain, Cambridge, UK

I recently drunk and drove. Whilst I wasn't drunk, I wasn't completely with it either. I had an accident and crashed into a kerb. Luckily I didn't hit anyone else, in a car or not and count my lucky stars ever since that day. It has subsequently wrecked my car, no claims discount and I've had to take another loan out to pay for the car. I shall not be drink driving ever again. I guess you need to pay a price to learn a lesson
Dean, Leeds

The police should be allowed to carry out random breath tests, not on the road but instead at the source.... pub car parks.
Ed Johnson, London, UK

Random breath tests greatly increase the deterrent against drink driving. On the basis of a random breath test, no one would be likely to take the "calculated risk" that many drivers take in terms of their alcohol consumption and the likelihood of being stopped. Being stopped at random may represent a small nuisance to perfectly innocent drivers, but if it saves even one extra life from the dangers of drink driving it has to be worth it.
Dave Robinson, Athens, Greece

There are not enough police on the roads as it is
Stuart Evans, Wigan, UK
There are not enough police on the roads as it is to catch the many drunks which I see swerving across the road every weekend night. How is randomly stopping innocent drivers (probably during the day) going to stop the thousands who drive home from the pub over the limit, every night and weekend. If there was a drunk camera like a speed camera, they police would be rolling the money in. But there isn't so the police would have to do some work to catch them, which isn't going to happen. So looks like going 3mph over the speed limit is a conviction but driving home blind drunk is OK.
Stuart Evans, Wigan, UK

Of course they should! Perhaps the guy I saw at 8 am today drive straight through a red light would be my first target. Drive past any pub and you'll see that the car park is full. Why am I the only one in there drinking soft drinks if I'm driving?
Bill Neat, Herne Bay

Drink driving is a real problem in the UK and I cannot really see why anyone would object to the possibility of random testing. The 'random' aspect of the test is that you will be picked regardless of how you are driving, the test and the number of vehicles pulled over will have to be done to a design. There are companies out there who design random opinion tests who could pull such a scheme off the shelf.
Judith Howell, London, UK

No. It's pointless. How can the police have time to stop people randomly when they don't even have time to investigate many crimes? The police should concentrate on finding out who the criminals are and target them. No need to harass most ordinary people - we don't want a police state in Britain.
Mark Pawelek, Belvedere, Kent

In practice we do have random breath tests - all the police have to do is claim the vehicle was being driven erratically.
Arnold Powis, UK

One thing leads to another. Living in France motorists are often randomly stopped and if they cannot get you for one thing they will search until they get you for another. I have a friend who was stopped for a random breath test. After testing negative and following a long unnecessary search, he was fined for not having enough windscreen cleaning fluid.
Jon, Grenoble, France

A resounding yes
Nick, Chester
A resounding yes. The car is perhaps the most lethal weapon ever invented, and anyone who would even consider to operate it whilst under the influence of alcohol is a scourge on society and deserves the full weight of the law to be forced down onto them. Anyone who bleats on about "human rights" issues is, in my humble opinion, completely ignorant; and should give more thought to the human rights of innocent people who suffer at the hands of those who drink and drive.
Nick, Chester

Random breath tests may work as a good deterrent catching a few people and fining them but should we be putting all this extra money and effort into drink driving and instead of the fire fighters or even towards a new A & E since the foreclosure of some A & E 's . I doubt it will be for the better.
David Gould, Glasgow

If the police actually wanted to catch drunk drivers all that they would have to do is to park unmarked cars near pubs at closing time. A friend of mine once rang them to tell them of someone who was about to drive away from a pub drunk.... they weren't interested.
Peter J, Telford and Wrekin

Why not? So long as it is used randomly and not just as a method to intimidate motorists I have no problem with it. The only people who will be affected by it will be the ones who drink and drive.
Ben, King's Lynn, UK

Absolutely, it is never a persons right to drink and drive, some people believe thy can "handle" drink driving, they are wrong and hopefully this will stop more people from trying it.
Paddy Thomas, Manchester UK

Yes, they should carry out such tests. It's really quite extraordinary that they don't already. Elsewhere in the world, it has really helped reduce alcohol related road accidents so I see no reason why the same can't be true of the UK.
William, London, England

Why not? You'd have to be pretty tipsy to be really noticeable when driving. So why not test everybody that is stopped? It wouldn't take long surely?
Andrew, Glasgow

I never drink and drive and would gladly welcome the introduction of such measures whatever inconvenience it may cause. If these measure only capture one person over the limit then that alone could have saved lives and would surely make it worthwhile.
Gary, Sussex

Random breath tests seem like a pointless encroachment on our civil liberties
Chris H, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
We don't have a constitution in this country, but we have an unwritten right to go about our business unmolested by the police unless they have reason to suspect we are doing something wrong. Random breath tests seem like a pointless encroachment on our civil liberties.
Chris H, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

I see far too many people drive home after a good 3 or 4 pints from pubs. I would like to see stricter enforcement of the drink-drive rules as I know how this much alcohol effects one's ability to drive safely.
Toby Wheeler, Buckinghamshire, England

The only people who have anything to fear are those who drink drive.
Tony, Stevenage, UK

As usual the Home Office has apparently failed to think an idea through. Whilst random breath tests might not greatly increase the number of offenders caught, the Damocles Sword value of such a system would be an effective deterrent against drinking and driving. In view of Britain's culture of irresponsible drinking, I'm in favour of random breath tests for drivers - and random drug tests too. Moreover, there's a cynical political edge to the Home Office's expressed sentiments. My feeling is that the Home Office is more interested in Labour winning the next election than in reducing alcohol and drugs related death on our roads.
Chris Hunter, Bedford, UK

Yes. Driving under the influence of alcohol is on the increase, so it's fairly obvious there are a rising number of motorists who are totally selfish and have no regard for the safety of others. Drink driving is on the increase, hit and runs are reported at alarming regularity in the press. More and more, a driving licence is viewed as a right not a privilege - this needs to be countered. Get the idiots off the road for good.
Helen S, UK

No! It would work fine if the police actually stopped random people (say every 100th car) but I fear certain sections of the population would find themselves stopped more often than others in these paranoid times. Given the number of reasons an officer might suspect someone of drink driving, there is no need to allow random tests.
Mark Bowyer, Banbury Oxon UK

Absolutely. If the police would reduce their pathetic revenue making attempts to enforce speed limits by hiding in bushes with "road safety" cameras, they could use the extra resource to catch the real killers on the roads.
Darren, Bristol, Avon

Drivers shouldn't drink and drive, simple as that
Chris Burns, Southampton, Hampshire
If the random breath tests don't put unnecessary strain on police resources and is used only as a tool for when it is needed, I am all in favour. Drivers shouldn't drink and drive, simple as that. If they do they should be prosecuted despite how they were caught.
Chris Burns, Southampton, Hampshire

No, there should not be random testing. The Police already have powers to test any drivers they suspect of having been drinking alcohol.
Chris Lovett, Southsea, Hants

The Police already have the power to administer a breath test when there is either the suspicion of someone driving under the influence of alcohol or having committed a road traffic offence. If random breath testing is introduced it will take more officers away from their core duty of protecting the public. Furthermore, there will be even more Police sitting idle in lay-by's waiting for the odd suspect driver to pass. Something, it appears to me, they spend most of their time doing presently anyway.
Geoff, Cheshire

If drink driving only had an impact on those that chose to do it then this wouldn't be required. Unfortunately that is not the case, and we have an obligation to remain sober at the wheel for everyone's' benefit, whether it's the person behind the wheel or the child running out on to the street. I would be happy to take such a test as I respect the need to safeguard human life rather than my own drinking habits.
Dan, UK

Why not? It's not an intrusive ordeal like a body cavity search
Craig Haffey, Oxford, UK
Why not? It's not an intrusive ordeal like a body cavity search, but a simple 30-second procedure. Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Drink driving cuts so many lives tragically short. Lets try to reduce the carnage.
Craig Haffey, Oxford, UK




SEE ALSO:
Florida's drink-driving clampdown
01 Feb 04  |  Americas
Alcohol limits 'should be lower'
08 Apr 04  |  Health


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