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AlcoLaser – the new high-tech nemesis of drunk drivers

Published time: October 30, 2011 04:08
Edited time: October 30, 2011 08:08

(AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)

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Drunk drivers in Russia from now on face a brand-new nemesis – a laser device which detects alcohol in the air of your car with sophisticated precision. This brainchild of Russian science is a world first and will be in use by traffic police by 2013.

The new invention, dubbed “Bouton” (flower bud), was demonstrated at the XV Anniversary International Exhibition of Police and Military Equipment – ‘Interpolitex’ – held in Moscow from 25 to 28 October. Bouton can trace even the most subtle fumes of ethanol in a car passing by at up to 150 km per hour. According to its manufacturer, it works in all weather conditions and requires no complex maintenance.

All vehicles are checked remotely in real time, i.e. without the need to interrupt the flow of traffic or conduct a personal inspection of each driver. And it seems there is no way to hide from it – even tinted and reinforced windows will not help.

It takes less than 0.1 seconds for Bouton to scan the car’s cabin. Then the device sends a Wi-Fi signal to a police officer, who has plenty of time to stop the suspected drunk before he drives away. Further manual testing of the driver can then be used to verify the device’s analysis.

“Bouton spots the fumes, while the camera shoots the car’s license plate, and all that from a distance of 25 meters,” explains the firm “Laser systems” which invented the device. “If the laser beam deflects in a specific way, it means the cabin’s air has ethanol in it, and Bouton a sends signal to its operator,” adds the manufacturer, as cited by the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Placed along Russia’s main highways the Bouton will greatly aid the work of traffic police, who have long struggled to reduce the number of drunk drivers. In 2010 alone, the number of car accidents involving drunk drivers topped 11,000. Some 6,200 such accidents have been registered so far in 2011 (almost 10 per cent of all crashes). Around 1,030 people have lost their lives as a result, and almost 10,000 were injured.

Not long ago, a drunken businessman ploughed into a group of students on a road crossing in Moscow. Two girls died and seven others were injured. This cannot but show the necessity of a crackdown on drunk driving in Russia, especially in big cities. And the brand-new device may become police officers’ right hand in their battle with the menace of drink-driving.

“We’ll choose the regions with the highest number of road accidents and send the new lasers to help the police there,” suggests Rashid Nurgaliev, Russian minister of Internal Affairs.

­New device – new concerns

However, not all is crystal clear about this new piece of know-how from Russian scientists. Though it has been through a rigorous testing process, many drivers doubt the device will be “fair” to them.

First of all, the gadget spots any alcohol fumes – be they from the driver, from the passengers or just from an open bottle being carried in the vehicle. However, the cops stopping you will definitely only subject the driver to medical checks. This means if you want to drive unhindered by traffic police, never take drunk passengers with you.

“Drivers will now think twice before taking drunk passengers, as it is the drivers who will face the task of explaining to police officers who took the shot,” believes Viktor Travin, the president of the Federation of Car Owners, as quoted by the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Moreover, police officers may go on to make routine checks on other things – first-aid kits, insurance, fire extinguisher. And this will take time, Travin adds.

Some also fear that AlcoLasers will spoil life for perfume-lovers. The scents contain ethanol, and will be easily picked up by the device. The same problem may be caused by the windshield washers which also contain alcohol as an anti-freeze element.

Finally, the usual health concerns have been raised. As the Bouton uses laser beams to scan the cars, will it have any negative impact on the passengers’ and drivers’ health? The manufacturer says no. It can neither dazzle the driver, nor affect his moves or health. And this has been proved through thorough testing, the inventors assure.

To make final adjustments to the Bouton and allay any possible doubts on the part of drivers, the manufacturers, along with the police, will carry out a number of test raids throughout the coming year. They will do this in co-operation with the Federation of Car Owners before the devices are finally set to scan the roads of Russia.

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