New breathalysers will decrease the burden on police as a drunk driving suspect can be breathalysed on the spot. The picture shows an old breathalyser.By the end of the year, police will finally be able to make use of the 50 new, more accurate breathalysers it acquired five years ago, according to Police Inspector Timo Ajaste of the National Police Board.

The Finnish daily Turun Sanomat reported last Wednesday that the new breathalysers had been left unused in storage because the quality control system for the devices was not yet in place. The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is responsible for the quality control.

THL could only start the work on the quality system last spring, Teemu Gunnar, the head of the Alcohol and Drug Analytics Unit at THL, told Helsingin Sanomat.

"It'll be another month, month and a half before we've finished our job," Gunnar explains.

After that, police will need another couple of months before they can start using the breathalysers.

Gunnar says the five-year delay was caused by technical problems in the breathalysers that came out in the initial testing.

Ajaste from the National Police Board confirms this, saying that some of the problems were linked to the manufacturer's system while some were due to the system of the police.

Helsingin Sanomat reported last spring that the delay was partly due to disruptions in the product supplier's business operations and matters to do with the reform of the police information system.

As a result of a bidding process organised in collaboration with the other Nordic countries, the Swedish manufacturer Evidenzer was selected as the supplier for the breathalysers.

The technical faults in the devices have now been rectified and they are ready to be used, according to Gunnar. THL has assessed the breathalysers in test conditions.

Decreasing police burden

The new breathalysers can be used to replace a blood test, which makes the requirements on their accuracy very stringent. The breathalysers will decrease the burden on police as a driver suspected of drinking and driving does not have to be taken to a blood test but can be breathalysed on the spot and the result used as evidence in court.

Ajaste says that the new breathalysers will be used by police departments all over the country but particularly in sparsely populated areas where taking a blood test would mean a long drive for the police.

Some of the devices have already been distributed to police departments and police officers have been given training in their use.

Anna-Sofia Nieminen – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
Image: Ville Männikkö