All new cars launched from 2022 will have to be equipped with speed limiting equipment and the wiring for in-built breathalysers, following a decision by the European Council.
In March this year the European Commission gave provisional approval for a plan to make several safety features mandatory in new cars. That plan has now received final approval, meaning it will pass into law.
The rule will make it compulsory for car makers to fit intelligent speed assistance (ISA); wiring for in-car breathalysers; lane keep assistance; autonomous emergency braking; data loggers and driver drowsiness warning systems.
All new models launched from 2022 will have to have the technology fitted while models already on sale will have to comply with the rules by 2024.
Although it is yet to be confirmed if the UK will set the same stipulations after Brexit, the Government has previously said that the UK will mirror European road safety rules.
Timo Harakka of the European Council, said: “These new rules will help us to reduce significantly the number of fatalities and severe injuries.”
Previously, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said that approval of the measures could cut collisions by 30 per cent and save 25,000 lives across Europe in the next 15 years.
The move has met with a mixed response from safety and motoring organisations.
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.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, welcomed the move and said that most law-abiding drivers would not be affected by the breathalyser technology.
He said: “IAM RoadSmart welcomed these proposals earlier this year so it is great to see they will actually happen.
“Speed limiters will still be voluntary so you don’t have to use them but they could save your licence.
“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. We see them 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.”
Read more: How accurate are home breathalysers?
However, AA president Edmund King warned that drivers should not become overly reliant on technology. He said: “Advisory intelligent speed assistance can help drivers keep their eyes on the road rather than constantly checking their speedo.
“Drivers sticking religiously to the speed limit still face the threat of smartphone zombies and other unwary road users stepping out in front of them or drunk or distracted drivers crashing into them.
“Technology will play a part but drivers should not rely solely on computers and cameras to drive their cars for them. Until fully autonomous vehicles are on the roads, drivers must keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”
How does intelligent speed assistance work?
Intelligent speed assistance is already fitted to many modern cars and uses traffic sign recognition and/or GPS location data to determine local speed limits. It then limits engine power to prevent the car accelerating above that limit.
The system can be overridden by the driver pressing hard on the accelerator and the ETSC has suggested that there should initially be an on/off control to completely deactivate it.
How do in-car breathalysers work?
Details of how the breathalyser systems will work are yet to be revealed but it is thought they will be aimed at tackling repeat offenders.
Systems in use in countries such as Australia and the United States use breathalyser technology similar to police and home testing kits. They require drivers to provide a clear breath sample via a built-in unit before allowing the engine to start. They can then require additional samples at random intervals to stop drink-drivers from getting a sober friend to provide a sample.