Soon to be the world's number one carmaker, Japanese auto giant Toyota plans to develop a system that it says will prevent a vehicle from starting after detecting that the driver is drunk.

The Toyota system analyzes sweat on the palms of the driver's hands to assess blood alcohol content and does not allow the vehicle to be started if the reading is above programmed safety limits.

The system can detect abnormal steering and whether the driver's pupils are out of focus as well as the sweat sensors in the steering wheel to determine the level of alcohol in the driver's bloodstream.

If any of these symptoms are detected the car will not turn on or will slow to a stop.

The automaker said the system could be available as soon as 2009.

Toyota joins Volvo in developing computerized systems to prevent drunk driving. The Volvo system requires the driver to blow into a tube to detect alcohol in the breath.

Toyota rival Nissan Motor is also working on measures to prevent drunk driving.

The research announcements follow a record of drunken driving in Japan which included 14,000 intoxicated driving accidents in 2005 that killed 707 people, according to the National Police Agency.

Japan is considering increasing the penalty for driving under the influence to up to a maximum five years in prison from the current three years and doubling the fine to $8,500.