The Breathalyser has now been saving your life for 50 years

Two police officers administer a Breathalyser test to a driver on Finden Road in Newham, in the East End of London, 1960s. (Photo by Steve Lewis/Getty Images)

50 years ago last weekend, police started carrying out roadside breath tests on UK motorist with the first ever use of the breathalyser. Prior to that, motorists were tested on whether they could touch their nose with their eyes closed, walk in a straight line or stand with one leg – we’ve sure come a long way from those archaic methods.

Way back then 1967, there were 1,640 road fatalities caused by drunk-driving and since the introduction of the breathalyser originally invented by Robert Frank Borkenstein, the number of deaths dropped by eight folds even with an stark increase in vehicle ownership.

Funnily enough, when the first laws were passed, it was greeted with outrage by many – with alcohol business owners even going to the extent of claiming that it disrupts their trade.

“In the first 12 months alone, there were 1000 fewer deaths and 11,000 fewer serious injuries on the roads – proving that the use of the ‘drunkometer’ was both necessary and justified”, said breathalyser firm AlcoSense Managing Director Hunter Abbott.

Before the breathalyser, the original method was to blow in a bag/balloon which as a crude device, used merely to confirm a policeman’s suspicion that a motorist was under influence of alcohol. Subsequently a blood or urine test would be conducted at the police station for evidential proof.

In case you aren’t aware, in Malaysia, the legal limit for alcohol content in your body while driving in Malaysia is 80 milligrams per deciliter, or 100 milliliters which is more a less a pint or two of beer – depending on how watered down it is!


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