Drink-drivers may soon need to install an alcohol interlock in their vehicles to keep them from driving after they have consumed alcoholic beverages.

The device is basically a breathalyser that can prevent a car from starting. The driver would have to breathe into the device, which would immobilise the vehicle if the driver’s breath revealed that his or her blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit.

The Durham Police will soon begin testing the device in conjunction with its Checkpoint programme, which attempts to reduce crime by focusing on the behaviour of offenders.

According to Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, the police will provide the devices on a voluntary basis to repeat offenders of the drink-driving laws and to people who have struggled with alcohol problems in the past.

In addition to taking the initial breathalyser test at the start of a trip, drivers would also have to use the device at random intervals until they reach their destination. The device will report test results back to the police in real time.

The initiative in Durham is the first use of these devices in the UK. They are common in Sweden, the US and in parts of France. As of July, repeat drink-driver offenders in Belgium must use the device.

Detective Inspector Andy Crowe, who is responsible for leading Durham’s pilot test of the interlock, is hopeful that the device will be effective in reducing the number of drink-drivers on the area’s roads as well as helping people address their problems with alcohol use.