In September 1897, George Smith, a 25-year-old London taxi driver, became the first person to be arrested for drunk driving, and after pleading guilty, he was fined 25 shillings.

But scientific road-test testing, and the tools to do it, took a lot longer to arrive. Do you know when the roadside breathalyser was introduced to Britain?

Roadside Breathalyser

Roadside Breathalyser Test Procedure UK

By 1925, as the motor car had begun to edge the horse-drawn carriage off the road, the criminal justice act made it an offence to be drunk in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle on any highway or public place. However, this was still a matter of judgment; in 1962, the Road Traffic Act – known as The Marples Act, after Ernest Marples, the then Minister of Transport – meant that blood, urine or breath tests could be carried out on drivers for alcohol analysis.

But the Road Safety Act of 1967, brought in by Barbara Castle, Minister for Transport, introduced evidential breath testing – better known as the roadside breathalyser. It meant approval for portable devices was set out by the Government and a year later, the first breathalyser got approval.


Its introduction is reported to have led to a fall in road traffic accidents (where alcohol had been a contributing factor) from 25% to 15%.

Did you guess the right date?