Friday, October 16, 2020

Time for Politicians to Step Up and Make Alcolocks Mandatory on Trucks and Buses

No More Needless Deaths and Injuries from an Avoidable Cause Please
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – In 1998, Larry Mahoney killed 24 youths and 3 adults when the bus he was driving crashed on the way back from a day out at an Ohio amusement park. Earlier this year a Chinese bus driver crashed his vehicle into Honghsan Lake in southwest China's Guizhou province, killing all 21 aboard. Last year, in Southend on Sea, Andrew Aldridge drove his fully laden school bus into a teenage boy and drove away. The lad miraculously survived after surgery. The connection? All the drivers were drunk.

We make no apologies for openly advocating the compulsory fitting of alcolock devices to buses and lorries for more than a decade, Now it seems the latest survey reveals that 82% of the population agree with us. The survey, published by Dräger Safety UK, part of The DrägerGroup, and commissioned by YouGov, also showed 83% back similar mandatory rules for repeat drink drive offenders.

Other answers to the survey questions reveal the duplicity of those who consume alcohol, 55% admit they would drive after drinking and 35% that they would drive as usual after a night out. The report has received support from such as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and it will be followed up later, hopefully this year, by another step toward legislation.

This is a Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) report looking at the viability of using the devices, which prevent a vehicle being started until a satisfactory breath sample is given, to be fitted in conjunction with drink drive rehabilitation programmes. The UK has a 0.08% blood alcohol content allowance whilst many countries, including several Asian and Eastern European states and, for obvious reasons, numerous more in the Middle East, have a complete ban.

We have illustrated before the success of the devices when fitted voluntarily to fleets of trucks, completely eliminating such problems as ‘fuzzy Mondays’ when drivers arrive for work after a heavy weekend but do not consider themselves still affected by alcohol. They have gained widespread support in programmes across Australia, America and parts of Europe yet remain ignored by others, and Graham Hurst, marketing manager at Dräger, says it is estimated around three million potentially dangerous journeys have been prevented in the US by alcolocks.

The point here is a simple one. Many suitable devices are available on the open market yet the UK government, and others, have dithered for well over a decade on this matter. If the PACTS report concludes the alcolock should be a standard part of the armoury fighting repeat offenders, surely we hear only the sound of the stable door closing? Why should they not be fitted as standard into all public transport vehicles, lorries, minibuses and the like, together with swingeing penalties for those who try and circumvent them.

We have seen numerous regulations imposed on buses and trucks of late, cleaner engines, better visibility etc. yet this one obvious move to make the commercial transport industry more responsible and save lives has been ignored too long. A driver who kills whilst alcohol impaired will suffer a lifetime of guilt. Those who perish will have families who grieve for years. The time has come to stop this misery and act.

Photo: Courtesy of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) which has an ‘Alcohol Interlock Barometer’ on its website.