Gin epidemic Temperance World War 1 Prohibition Breathalyser
bbc.co.uk
Home
TV
Radio
Talk
Where I Live
A-Z Index
Front Page | In-depth | Health | Heart disease
History

The Breathalyser

In Britain the Breathalyser Law was given Royal Assent on 10th May 1967 and put into operation on 9th October.

Practical and highly portable, it was invented in 1953 by Professor Robert F Borkenstein.

It replaced a more cumbersome contraption, invented in 1938 and known as the drunkometer.

Resistance

There was huge opposition to the new Breathalyser. Barbara Castle, Transport Minister at the time, faced hostility from the drinks industry, motoring organisations, the Opposition and even from within her own ranks.

In an interview for the BBC One series Booze, Dame Barbara told of the resistance she faced.

"I was interfering, the opposition said, with people's civil rights. I said I do not recognise anybody's civil right to kill somebody else because they're under the influence."

She received abusive mail, even a death threat, but her courage paid off. In the first year of the new act, there were 1,152 fewer fatalities, 11,177 fewer serious injuries and 28,130 fewer slight injuries.

Saved Lives

"The publication of the first figures of the lives we saved were fantastic. It gave a fantastic boost and people saw the hollowness of the claim that 'I have my civil rights and Government hasn't any right to take them off me'."

One of the most persuasive arguments was the mind-set of the magistrates who dealt with those caught driving dangerously while under the influence.

"The attitude of the magistrates was 'well there but for the grace of God go I', and they were letting these people off and there had to be a legal remedy for that imposed by Parliament and the Government on these drivers."

Moving traffic offence

The police at first were very nervous about the new law, and anxious that it might damage public relations.

To avoid this, the moving traffic offence was introduced. Drivers of cars stopped for offences such as crossing a red light or speeding could be breathalysed.

There was less resentment because the drivers knew they had done something wrong. They could not be randomly tested.

Dame Barbara still treasures a letter from one woman who wrote to her saying "Thank you for giving my husband back to me. He used to leave me at home when he went to the pub. Now he takes me with him to drive him home."

Provisional figures for 2000 indicate that in Britain there were 520 drink-drive related fatalities, 2,530 serious injuries and 14,980 slight injuries, and 86,000 convictions for alcohol-related driving offences.


Introduction
Programmes
Forum
Quiz
Their Story, Your Story
Health issues
An addicts story
Vote
Survey
History

Introduction
Programmes
Forum
Quiz
Their Story, Your Story
Health issues
An addicts story
Vote
Survey
History
^^ Back to Top
 © MMV | News Sources | Privacy