Breathalysers must be able to be fitted into all new cars from 2022 following a landmark decision by the European Council.
The technology, that could prevent drink-drivers from starting their engines, was approved in March but has only just been rubber-stamped by European officials last week.
The UK’s position is yet to be confirmed, but the current Government has previously said it will mirror European road safety rules post-Brexit.
Cars made before 2022 will have to comply with the new rules by 2024. Road safety charity Brake has labelled the move the “biggest leap forward for road safety this century”.
Timo Harakka of the European Council, said: “These new rules will help us to reduce significantly the number of fatalities and severe injuries.”
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said the measures could cut collisions by 30% and save 25,000 lives across Europe over the next 15 years.
Details on how car breathalyser protocol will play out remain deliberately vague. Some systems require repeat breath tests at random intervals to prevent drunk drivers to ask a sober friend to start their car.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Although all new cars from 2022 will be enabled to have an alcolock, it will be up to the UK Government to decide how they are used.”
Speed limiters – or intelligent speed assistance (ISA) software – are already fitted on many cars and can be overridden by pressing hard on the accelerator.
The ETSC has suggested drivers should be able to temporarily override ISA software, for instance to aid certain overtaking manoeuvres1.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, said: “Drink-driving and speeding are a scourge on our roads and the cause of devastating crashes every day.
“On the eve of Road Safety Week, it’s fantastic to hear that alcohol interlock compatibility and speed limiting technology will soon be mandatory.”
Mr Greig said: “We see them (in-car breathalysers) as a useful tool for repeat drink drive offenders to get them back to safe driving after a ban.
“It is very unlikely that the vast majority of the law-abiding public will ever have to blow in a tube to start their car.”