Alcohol Interlocks – The Case of North American and Europe

Back to Blog

ALCOLOCK France and Rauwers Attend Busworld 2015

Alcohol interlocks measure the breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) of a driver and prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver’s BrAC is over a predetermined limit.

An alcohol interlock is a breathalyzer attached to a vehicle’s dashboard that prevents the vehicle engine from starting if the driver blows over a preset limit. The device blocks the signal from traveling from the ignition switch to the vehicle starter. An Electronic Control Unit (ECU) is installed under the vehicle’s hood to record all information from the handset.

The question of standardizing alcohol interlocks for buses is one that has popped up a lot lately throughout print and social media after the onset of several bus-related DUI cases. Of course, it’s irresponsible to drink and drive regardless of who else is in the vehicle, but is it time to start eliminating the risk altogether?

Several years ago, France rose to the occasion and made alcohol interlocks the standard for any bus carrying passengers, including children. France experienced one of its worst years in 2012 for drinking and driving-related fatalities and almost passed legislature that would require all vehicles to be outfitted with an alcohol interlock. Instead, they took this smaller, yet notable, step in the public transportation industry as a litmus test.

In 2006, the Swedish government passed a law that required all trucks commissioned by the Swedish Road Administration (SRA) over 3.5 tons be outfitted with alcohol interlocks. In 2008, it became the legal standard for all vehicles purchased or leased by the SRA to be outfitted with alcohol interlocks; perhaps this was Sweden’s way of putting their government officials through the test before implementing country-wide legislation for all vehicles.

In North America, cases involving bus and coach drivers have reached epidemic levels. In mid January of this year, a First Student Inc. bus driver was convicted of a DUI in Ottawa after crashing an empty (thankfully) school bus into another car driving through an intersection. In mid September, a bus driver in Davis County, Utah, plead guilty to a DUI charge after swerving and reeling through lanes of traffic with no less than seven passengers on board. In early October, a bus operator from the Durham Regional Transit rear-ended another vehicle with fourteen passengers on board. It was later discovered that she had an open liquor bottle by the driver seat.

In Canada and the United States, no such legislation exists that dictates the implementation of alcohol interlocks into buses carrying passengers. Perhaps North America can learn something from the French and Swedish examples.

It’s working for them, but would it work for us?