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Japanese cabbies take mobile drink drive test

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3GSM Japanese transport firms are using mobile phone technology to prevent drunk drivers from starting their shifts.

The system from NTT DoCoMo uses an alcohol breath analyser that sends data to a service centre rather than one that can immobolise a vehicle by connecting directly to its ignition system. Drivers starting their shifts make a video call to their firm's service centre before taking a test. A software package that forms part of the system confirms a driver's identity before a test is made. Altogether the technology costs around $2,000 per seat.

NTT DoCoMo has sold the system to 50 taxi and bus companies since introducing it, solely in Japan, in September 2006.

NTT DoCoMo marketing executive Ryo Kiyofuji explained that firms are interested in using the technology because it allows them to demonstrate that they have procedures in place to combat drink driving, thereby helping to avoid liability in the case of drink driving deaths. Incidents where a number of children were killed by drunk drivers brought the issue to the fore last year.

Kiyofuji said drivers who are found to be over the limit at the start of their shifts will be told not to drive that day and not fired. The legal limit for driving in Japan is under 1.1mg/litre of breath. ®

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