Saab has been given an award in recognition of a device that prevents drunk people from driving.

The AlcoKey, now being trialled on a widespread basis in Sweden, is smaller than a mobile phone, and incorporates a flip-top cover with a mouth piece where the driver provides a breath sample before starting the car. A radio transmitter then sends a signal to the car’s electronic control unit. This will either allow the car to be started, or keep it immobilised if the breath sample is found to contain alcohol above the permitted legal level.

Devices like this are recognised around the world for their effectiveness in lowering re-offending drink driving rates and the Department for Transport here in the UK is running a pilot alco-lock programme for repeat drink drivers. Many US states and Canadian provinces also use them.

Despite the fact that Saab’s home market of Sweden is at the forefront of Europe when it comes to traffic safety, drink driving is also still a serious problem there. In 2005, drink driving accounted for approximately 35% of all road fatalities in Sweden. After more than 20 years of success in lowering drink-driving rates in the UK, the number of road deaths involving excessive consumption of alcohol has been on the rise since 2000.

This is the seventh year that the Swedish Automobile Association has given an annual award, which is designed to encourage individuals, organisations or companies that are innovative and outstanding within the fields of traffic safety, car safety and the environment.