Benefits of project on breath alcohol measurement continues to spread in Europe

Driver being subject to test for alcohol content with use of breathalyser

25% of all road traffic fatalities are alcohol related - accurately calibrated breath analysers are essential to help reduce this number

The EC has estimated that 25% of all road traffic fatalities are alcohol related – meaning that around 6,500 deaths a year could be prevented if all drivers obeyed drink-driving laws.

Essential to improve this situation is to have roadside breath analysers calibrated with ‘certified reference materials’ (CRMs) that simulate human breath, and which are traceable to the International System of Units. However, to do this, large volumes of CRMs of ethanol-in water are required – which are not easily transportable across national boundaries.

Prior the EMPIR project Certified forensic alcohol reference materials (16RPT02, ALCOREF) only two National Metrology Institutions (NMI) in Europe were capable of generating these materials. These were LNE in France and BAM in Germany. Other countries either had to rely on importing them from these two countries or use the less accurate, not certified materials or dry-ethanol gases.

ALCOREF was a EURAMET research potential project, special projects which are designed to help transfer metrological expertise and knowledge throughout Europe, focusing on research areas considered to be of national and regional priority.

During the project, which lasted from 2017 to 2020, both LNE and BAM transferred their experience in CRM development to project partners, CEM (Spain), DMDM (Serbia), GUM (Poland), IMBiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina), INM-RO (Romania), EXHM (Greece), FTMC (Lithuania) and TUBITAK UME (Turkey).
All partners successfully demonstrated their ability to quantify ethanol in water in an EURAMET intercomparion  EURAMET.QM-S14.

Since the project ended the benefits of the work has continued:

  • DMDM has provided training themselves in CRM production to BOM, the NMI of North Macedonia, which has helped BOM participated in an international project, “Strengthening the internal market” that started in December 2020. In addition, DMDM has expanded the range of the ethanol-in-water materials they provided – and has had over a dozen customers for these.
  • CEM has provided their materials to Spanish institutions that verify breath analysers - including an institute that is run by the Italian Ministry of infrastructures and transport.
    In addition, with the experience from the ALCOREF project, CEM is running a new project for the certification of a sucrose-in-water reference material that is suitable for the calibration of refractometers.
  • IMBiH  has implemented ISO 17034:2017 - General requirements for the competence of reference material producers .
  • GUM has continued to provide support for accredited calibration laboratories in Poland in the field of breath analysers, which has included passing on training and experience gained during the ALCOREF project regarding calibration of breath analysers, purity assessment of ethanol and quantification of ethanol.
  • TUBITAK UME has provided support to a company developing highway safety test equipment and is in contact with national regulatory bodies to promote the use of breath wet gas simulators instead of dry gas applications.

In addition, project work has contributed to an update of the International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) recommendation: R126:2021 regarding the metrological and technical requirements of evidential breath analysers.

As well as expanding the sphere of knowledge of ethanol-in-water CRM production through Europe – helping to reduce road deaths caused by drink-driving - the project partners have also gained the knowledge and know-how on the certification process of materials itself. This is knowledge that can be transferred to the manufacture of other materials.

Rosemarie Philipp (BAM) who coordinated the highly successful project said about the work: “The main outcome of the ALCOREF project are new certified ethanol in water reference materials in countries where they were not available before. These materials are now used for the type approval and regular verification of evidential breath alcohol analysers according to OIML regulations and national requirements”.

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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