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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Random breath tests rejected
Driver breathalysed
Most European countries carry out random breath testing
The Home Office is resisting pressure from the European Commission to bring in random breath tests for drivers.

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" and would put pressure on the police.

"The police are already quite adept at targeting drink-drive suspects and the government would like forces to continue to use intelligence-based methods to catch offenders," a Home Office spokesman said.

"The government does not think the police should have unlimited powers to stop and test, which would put unnecessary pressure on limited resources."

There are clear civil liberties issues here
Rebecca Bell, RAC

Recent figures for drink driving showed that offences were up by 6% last year.

President of the European Traffic Police Network, Ad Hellemons, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "The vast majority of member states already carry out random breath tests.

"We are aware that the UK is not happy about this but at the end of the day we are talking about making our roads safer.

"We can't understand why governments would want to protect drink drivers.

"The European Commission has made it clear that they expect this recommendation to be followed and if it is not will issue a directive," Mr Hellemons added.

'Hardcore of drinkers'

Rebecca Bell from motoring organisation the RAC said the UK's existing drink driving laws were not working effectively because the numbers of people being caught was going up.

"There is obviously a hardcore of drivers who still haven't got the message this is socially unacceptable. But there are clear civil liberties issues here.

"Motorists are already feeling antagonistic over speed cameras and increasing fuel prices and measures like this probably won't help ease the tension," she added.

The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"The Home Office says it has no intention of changing the law"

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