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Alcohol interlocks mandatory for repeat drink-drivers

  1. aemetha
    Alcohol-activated locks which prevent drink-drivers from starting their car will soon be mandatory for repeat offenders.

    Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss confirmed today that anyone convicted of two or more offences within five years will have one of the locks installed in their car. Those who were caught driving with a reading of more than 3.2 times the legal alcohol limit would also get a sentence which required one of the devices.

    At present, sentences which require alcohol interlocks are applied to around 100 recidivist drunk drivers a year. Now that they are mandatory, they could be applied to between 4000 and 5000 people a year. The driver will cover the costs of the breathalyser device. However, offenders may get support from a Government subsidy. The Cabinet has approved around $4 million in funding for the interlock scheme.

    The interlock is wired into the vehicle's ignition. Any breath-alcohol reading higher than zero will activate the lock. Foss said interlocks had been shown to reduce reoffending rates by around 60 per cent. "Most people who face a sentence like this do try their best to abide by that sentence and ... change their behaviour," he said. The minister conceded that the locks were not foolproof - a drunk driver could get a sober person to start their car for them. But there were stiff penalties for anyone who abused the system, Foss said. Some of the devices also came with a camera which prevented people from tampering, he said.

    The move was strongly backed by the Automobile Association (AA), which described it as a "much-needed advancement". The devices had prevented 4137 attempts at drink-driving since they were introduced in 2013, AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen said. "If a small number of interlocks can prevent 100 drink driving attempts each month then imagine how much impact thousands of interlocks will have."

    Repeat drink driver Luke Bickerstaff, who had one of the locks installed after his second offence, said the device was frustrating at first. "But ... it was a genuine lifesaver. It changes your whole behaviour and attitude towards drinking and driving. "Every time you blow into that device it's a reminder of what you've done, your previous wrongdoing." He said the devices required a driver to be breath-tested on more than one occasion, so could not be gamed easily.


    - cause of 77 deaths and 436 injuries a year
    - 4000 to 5000 repeat drink-drive offences each year
    - 100 drink-drive "attempts" prevented by alcohol interlocks a month


    May 7 - Driver, 17, caught five times over the breath-alcohol limit with his 10-month old son in the car in Hamilton East.
    Jan 26 - 55 year-old woman on zero alcohol license caught five times over the breath-alcohol limit in Kaitaia. Sentenced to four months' home detention.
    Nov 27 - West Coast man, 56, sentenced to five months' jail after being convicted of his seventh drink-driving offence. In his most recent case, he was caught four times over the limit.

    9 August 2016
    Isaac Davison
    The New Zealand Herald


  1. aemetha
    Editorial: Interlocks a welcome new weapon against drink-driving

    [IMGL="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51624&stc=1&d=1470850069[/IMGL]OPINION: Repeat and extreme drink drivers will soon have alcohol "interlock" devices attached to their cars as a matter of course, the Government says.

    The devices work by forcing offenders to blow into a breathalyser before their car ignition will go. If they have alcohol on their breath, it won't start. Only 100 or so interlocks are typically in use at present; after a law change, there will be up to 5000. The interlock usually stays on for a year – though it can be extended if there are failed attempts. All of this is fair and justified, especially for repeat drink-drive offenders, who have already proven that the normal punishments don't work on them.

    The slightly more debatable case is that of first-time offenders, but only those with alcohol readings more than three times the current legal limit will be made to use a lock. In ordinary terms, this level of alcohol means "completely blotto". To drive after consuming so much is extremely dangerous; it deserves a decisive intervention.

    There will be some hard cases – first-time offenders who urgently need to drive for work, for instance, and who are often afforded some leniency under the current rules. Perhaps the law can still leave a little room for discretion there. (Not too much, however: when judges had wide sentencing power, they ordered only two per cent of eligible offenders to receive interlocks, a startlingly low figure).

    For some people, there might be practical difficulties too. The locks cost about $2500 to fit and maintain for a year, including regular trips to the installers to allow the device's readings to be recorded. This amount will be beyond some people, so the Government proposes spending $4 million on subsidies. That seems reasonable; the whole community benefits if serious and repeat drink-drive offenders are kept from getting behind the wheel.

    Finally, there needs to be very strong confidence in the reliability of the devices, especially if their readings are being used to effectively extend people's sentences. Failures are not impossible: the police have suffered embarrassment from faulty breathalysers recently.

    Still, assuming everything works as it should, the case is overwhelming for wide use of interlocks. The vast harm and misery caused by drink driving is now widely understood in New Zealand. The Government's 2014 decision to introduce a lower alcohol limit was generally accepted. Anecdotally, behaviour has changed markedly too – from young people who take a taxi after a night out, to people who turn down an extra drink at the sports club. In recent decades, both drink-drive fatalities and offences have fallen sharply.

    It's right that our laws reflect this level of community consensus - and that there are no easy outs for those who continue to defy it. It's just as welcome if further moves against drink-driving can be found that don't punish those who drink modestly and sensibly, within the limits of the new law.

    Alcohol interlocks are such a targeted solution. They are a useful technological fix for some of the most troublesome offenders. Even if the taxpayer has to pitch in, it's right to roll out this new weapon against drink-driving much more widely.

    11 August 2016
    Photo: MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ
    Source: The Dominion Post
  2. aemetha
    New drink drive rules 'will cost jobs'

    [IMGR="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51625&stc=1&d=1470850354[/IMGR]Lumping first-time offenders in with repeat drink drivers who have to use alcohol interlocks could be too harsh, says a lawyer who specialises in traffic law.

    Under tougher new rules, anyone caught drink driving twice within five years or anyone caught more than three times over the legal limit will receive an interlock sentence.

    Interlocks use a dashboard breathalyser which prevents a car from starting if alcohol is detected on the breath. Data from New Zealand's alcohol interlock providers suggests that the 550 interlocks fitted over the past three years have prevented more than 2000 drink-drive events.

    Steve Cullen, a barrister of 30 years, said while it was a good move for repeat offenders, for first-time offenders it was a concern. "The difficulty is that they've extended the legislation to first offenders blowing over 800 [micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath]. That's going to cause a problem because at the moment first offenders come before the court, after four weeks we can get them back with a work related driving license and they can get on with their lives. This legislation's got the inadvertent side effect of those people are now going to face over three months of not being able to drive. It's going to cost people jobs."

    He said employers of people who frequently needed to drive for work would not be able to tolerate the three month absence and the current system recognised people needed to get on with their lives. "The particular subcategory who are going to be impacted by this are solo mothers in sales rep positions with enormous time requirements and driving requirements both for their job and for their children. These ladies will lose their jobs. I get them as clients, I'm the person they come in and cry with and say what do I do and after 28 days I can get them back and put a repair package together. The employer will stand by them because it's an adequate timeframe."

    He said while it was commendable legislation and would work, the government needed to look at keeping a special circumstance provision or do away with the three month waiting period. "I would think that group is going to shrink significantly over the following years as people realise that they can't afford to have any alcohol at all and get behind the wheel."

    'Our roads are going to be safer'

    The government estimates between 4000 and 5000 drunk drivers a year will have to use the devices that prevent the car from starting if alcohol is detected.

    Automobile Association spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said with only a tiny number being used in the past, it was a good step forward. "Our roads are going to be safer, they're going to have less drink drivers on them once we get more alcohol interlocks into people's cars. The more alcohol interlocks we have on the roads in drink drivers' vehicles the safer the roads are going to be because the simple fact is they don't let people get drunk and get behind the wheel again."

    He said research done by the AA had found around 10,000 drink drivers appearing before New Zealand courts each year had been eligible for an alcohol interlock. He said only a couple of hundred had actually been sentenced to use one. "It's been a tiny number and we need to do much much better than that. "In the last three and a half years the small number of interlocks we've had in vehicles are stopping about 100 drink driving attempts every month and that's been with only 2 percent of the eligible offenders who go to court actually getting one. "One hundred drink driving attempts each month being stopped. If we dramatically increase that number we're going to be looking at thousands of drink driving attempts every month that are going to no longer happen. that's going to make a really big difference in terms of safety." He said other countries that have had interlocks for longer were now considering giving them to all drink driving offenders which was a possible next step for New Zealand.

    The head of the road safety charity Brake, Caroline Perry, said while the cost involved and availability had been an issue in the past, it was great to see the government take a hardline against drink drivers. "They have prevented potential drink drivers from getting onto the road. We know that drink driving results in so many needless deaths and injuries on our roads every year causing devastation to families and communities. We believe mandatory interlocks is going to have a significant impact in reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries from drink driving. "

    Ms Perry said ultimately the country's drink driving limit needed to be zero. "Research shows that even small amounts of alcohol affect your ability to drive safely, they affect your reaction times and hazard perception so having a zero tolerance limit makes it crystal clear to all drivers that it should be none for the road. "

    10 August 2016
    Tom Furley
    Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins
    Radio New Zealand
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