By on July 30, 2020

Image: Lada

That shiny new Lada you’ve always wanted might one day come with an unexpected bit of equipment: an ignition interlock set free by non-boozy breath.

That’s what Russia’s industry ministry would like to see installed in cars before they even leave the factory, but reaching this goal —  like trying to put on a pair of tight-fitting shoes after polishing off a 26er of Stolichnaya —  will likely prove a challenge.

Russia’s impaired driving rate has declined over the past couple of decades, the result of many factors, but the country remains far ahead of its European Neighbors in terms of its traffic death rate. In 2014, the country’s rate was six times higher than that of the EU’s, and impaired driving played a role in this.

As they have in the past, Russian lawmakers want to narrow the gap. As reported by Reuters, the country’s industry ministry aims to craft a plan before the end of the year to curb boozy motoring. Specifically, it wants to see install ignition interlocks in as many vehicles as possible. The plan might outline new government initiatives designed to encourage the use of such breathalyzer devices, but it might also flesh out ways to convince automakers to install the devices at the factory.

Image: Lada

It would take some considerable legislative muscle to compel the industry to follow suit, given that the addition would add complexity and cost. And it would have to be an across-the-board thing, otherwise automakers selling cars without the safety nanny would hold an advantage over their competition. And what about imports? It’s a complex issue.

Which might be why this isn’t the first time Russia has tried to make interlocks a widespread thing. Past attempts failed. Time will tell what becomes of this effort. Meanwhile, the ministry did not respond to Reuters‘ request for comment.

From Reuters:

Russians have long had a reputation as ferocious drinkers, but alcoholic consumption has fallen by an estimated 43% from 2003 to 2016, according to a World Health Organization study last year.

Russia remains a nation of heavy drinkers, but the study linked the fall in consumption to higher alcohol excise taxes, policies clamping down on home-made alcohol and the raising of the minimum price for vodka.

President Vladimir Putin has long cultivated an image of sobriety in contrast to his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, whom many Russians associate with drunken and embarrassing gaffes.

A series of laws that came into effect in 2013 and 2014 imposed new fines and penalties on Russian drivers caught with too much booze in their bloodstream (0.16 is the don’t-cross line in that country, not the more typical 0.08). Mandatory prison sentences await drunk drivers who kill.

[Images: Lada]

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42 Comments on “Russia Eyes Factory In-car Breathalyzers...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Not pretty but I think that little Lada off-roader belongs here in the US. There are people who WANT that size of rig and I’m betting it will be pretty popular.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Vulpine… totally agreed. If we can’t get the Lada, someone needs to bring the Suzuki Jimny into the U.S. The only thing the Jimny needs is a sixth gear for highway use.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      There was a time in the late 70’s early 80’s were one could get new Lada’s in Canada. They tried building a dealer network. The Lada’s that did sell were sh!tty, unreliable vehicles and parts were hard to come by.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Lada’s Canadian HQ still exists on the south-east corner of Petrolia Road and Steeles Avenue West. The Lada name and logo are still on two sides of the building and I believe are viewable on Google Maps.

        Ladas sold fairly well in Eastern Canada for about a half-dozen years, as the least expensive new car you could buy. Until Hyundai unleashed the Pony and cut Lada’s market.

        The Niva was actually quite respected as a rugged little off road vehicle.

        As for the cars, I had a friend who bought one. They actually had a crank start for when their electric start did not work. Robust vehicles, very easy to work on, but requiring regular (meaning British Leyland type) maintenance. The upholstery seemed to be the same material as a Soviet Army greatcoat.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I always thought Malcolm Bricklin should have imported the Niva here as a Yugo SUV. It could have filled a niche as a competitor to the Samurai.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Actually saw a Niva in someone’s driveway last Saturday.
        The first I have seen in about 2 years.
        They were actually fairly popular in Canada, back in the day.

    • 0 avatar
      Gedrven

      Emphatically disagree; I find the Niva’s exterior looks well above average, especially among new vehicles. The interior, not so much.

      Once in a while I browse Kijiji for Nivas. Usually there are 2-5 for sale at any given time, roughly half of which run. At one point, I medium-seriously considered importing a $200 example with no engine in BC. With an electrics overhaul and a zero-wire TDI swap… it’d still be a farm tractor with crippling rust, which realization spelled the end of that fantasy. For now.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Haha! No more driving for you, comrade

  • avatar
    KevinB

    “alcoholic consumption has fallen by an estimated 43% from 2003 to 2016” “Russia remains a nation of heavy drinkers”

    Only in Russia can you cut your alcohol consumption almost in half and STILL have a big alcohol abuse problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      A big reason why this is true is that Russia’s population is cratering. Goes down by almost a million a year, and this is projected to continue until it stabilizes somewhere around 80 million.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Mike,

        false info

        1990 – 147,531,561
        2010 – 143,479,274 — last year of decline
        2020 – 145,934,462

        So, in fact, it is on the rise now!

        However,
        has a lot to do with foreign workforce coming in and taking on the citizenship. But they also made some laws that encourage child birth

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Don’t forget, part of that Russian ‘cratering’ was them sending ‘mail order brides’ to the US… like the one a certain high executive married.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I think a big part of of that Russian ‘cratering’ is that when you’re drunk it can be difficult to, um, perform ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            What about all the mass murder by organized crime groups in the 1990s? In fact, Putin put end to this. For awhile there was a situation when people where murdered by tens of thousands and at the same time thrown in jail of forced to leave. But later, the chaos stopped, law prevailed and population started to grow. And having only 500K in prison helps. Because men don’t reproduce from prison.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Not only Russia. Same could be said for Wisconsin. :)

  • avatar
    JimC2

    There’s gotta be a Yakov Smirnoff punchline in here somewhere… “Car breathalyze YOU!”

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Yakov Smirnoff was in the news the other day testifying about his opposition to mask requirements. I thought his career ended when the Berlin Wall fell and he ended up playing Branson.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    So then ;

    No more government subsidized vodka ? .

    Cute little car, I’d love a Niva but probably still wouldn’t buy one ~ someone here found me a nice one a while back and I didn’t run out to buy it…

    Maybe if I still lived in the woods I’d buy one, gotta be better than freezing my balls of in that 1952 M38A1 Willys army jeep like I did in 1968 .

    If they have an alcohol breathalyzer, maybe the Russians would begin smoking pot instead ~ stoners will be stoners, I remember bums drinking “squeeze” made from _Sterno_ .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Gedrven

      “If they have an alcohol breathalyzer, maybe the Russians would begin smoking pot instead ~ stoners will be stoners,”

      Picturing the typical belligerent drunk, then picturing the typical couch-glued stoner, then examining Russian foreign (and domestic) policy and history… I daresay I’ve heard worse suggestions for promoting world peace.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    This might help bring money to the aftermarket — to defeat the interlock.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    An acquaintance, who was stationed in Berlin during the Cold War, had a wise adage: “Never, and I mean never, attempt to out-drink a Russian”.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t find the 4×4 Lada any uglier than a Ford Ecosport or a Chevy Trax. I actually like its looks for what it is in that its form is functional. No huge Billy Bass grill and not ladened with plastic chrome.

  • avatar

    “That shiny new Lada ”

    New Ladas are not that shiny. I would stay away from any Lada.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      But, Ladas look so nice sitting next to your Trabant

      • 0 avatar

        Trabant is a showcase of German engineering. But it is not shiny either. It is not shiny at all.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Everybody is laughing about Trabant, etc. But reality is such that all that was done on purpose. Germany lost the war they started, and was paying retributions. Soviets packed German industry and moved it to their territory to revive their destroyed industry. And while US had Marshall plan to restore European economy with Dollar being main currency and which allowed Europe buy American products; Soviets refused to participate in Marshall plan and be dependent on US, and told their satellites to do the same. So, East German revival would take a very long time.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molotov_Plan

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        But is it also made of cardboard?

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          The Trabant was made from industrial resin and recycled cotton waste, in other words, garbage

          • 0 avatar

            But it is environmentally friendly.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            IIRC those crude ‘fiberglas’ bodies were not environmentally friendly , were near indestructible and near impossible to recycle .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            In 10,000 years archeologists will do a dig and find a perfectly intact Trabant

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            A neighbor just imported a Trabbie. I haven’t seen it yet. Can’t wait to see its little trail of smoke wafting behind it. In my area, they collect everything and seem to have a penchant for problem cars. We have Reliants and Amphicars too. Jay Leno is from here (I pass his childhood home if I take back roads to go shopping) and even today can see the local car culture he was exposed to as a kid.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Lie2me: I would remind you that a lot of cars made in the US around the 50s and 60s had a surprising amount of cardboard in them, too. Now, I can’t speak to “recycled cotton waste” but I would remind you that seat cushions back then were not the kind of foam rubber later cars had, either. That showed up when the brands started trying to lighten their cars for better fuel economy (pollution control.)

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Ok, Vulpine, but let me remind you that the Trabant in all it’s glorious industrial waste, pollutants and agri-by-products was made up until 1990

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            No argument there, Lie2 but you still have to consider that under the Soviet Union, nobody felt the need to cater to style-conscious customers since ANY car was better than walking from farm to city or across the city. US cars changed a lot…during the 60s especially, body styles tended to change drastically every year… really starting around ’55 through about ’75. Before that, most changes were just in the trims such as grille designs, maybe some minor changes in tail lamps, etc. Around ’54-’55 you saw the beginning of the shift to make visual changes on a yearly basis, mostly minor, then in ’58 we started seeing major sheet-metal changes, leading up to ’59 when long, low and wide became the theme (still love the ’59 Chevys over all others.) Even Ford got into the act big time, with pretty much every model but the Falcon (Thunderbird was my favorite Ford of the era.)

            Of course, with such rapid changes, it was far easier to use cardboard for the kick panels, especially since they needed to be removable for access to wiring and mechanical throws (remember the air vents in the fenders that helped bring cooler air inside? And don’t forget mechanical chokes and even dash-mounted hand brakes.) Even the shelf under the rear window was cardboard, because it was cheap and easy to cut to the new year’s shape. For a plush look, the OEM would glue fabric, carpet or even leather/vinyl, maybe with some padding underneath. But it was still cardboard underneath. Plastics didn’t become a big deal until the later part of the ’60s to early ’70s.

            Again, the Trabant didn’t need all that cosmetic transformation because the Soviet Union believed that all people should be the same and live the exact same lifestyle as their neighbor. Or rather, their leadership did.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            In the major cities of the Soviet Union subways were clean,safe,reliable and cheap. Some stations can be described as opulent.

            So you did not need a car in the city. And to travel distances within the country you needed permission. So personal vehicles were a luxury.

            We in the west were fed ‘fake news’ regarding life in the Soviet Union. Consumer goods were available, TVs did not ‘blow up’. What was lacking was choice. You got what was manufactured.

            Workers received regular subsidized holidays. Often with access to ‘cottages’ controlled by the organization for which they worked.

            Pay was based on your contribution to society. Engineers were highly paid (relatively) and lawyers were on the lower end. So not everything about the Soviet Union was incorrect.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            There was also a 13 year waiting list to get a new Trabant, used ones sold for twice what new ones sold for

            Don’t get me wrong, East Germany was a country of few resources post WWII, the fact that they were able to produce a running automobile with what they had to work with is amazing. I guess necessity really is the mother of invention

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I kind of like the looks of the 4×4. It kinda looks like a 5/3s Festiva.

  • avatar
    pveezy

    All Vodka jokes aside, I always wondered why these weren’t regulated in all cars. Not that I WANT a breathalyzer in my car… but we live in a world where every conceivable piece of safety tech is legislated from seatbelts to pedestrian safe bumpers to the law saying you need a rear camera to keep you from running over your own kids… surprised they haven’t taken this obvious step that would significantly reduce drunk driving.

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