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Alcohol interlocks a step forward in drink driving battle

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Putting alcohol interlocks into the cars of drink drivers will help make our roads safer, says the AA.

Associate Minister of Transport Simon Bridges launched the devices at Parliament today and, from September, judges will have the option to sentence a repeat drink driver or anyone caught at double the legal blood alcohol limit to have an alcohol interlock installed in their car.

An interlock requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece at the start and during a journey, and will not allow the vehicle to start if the driver has any alcohol in their system.

The devices are used in numerous countries internationally including Australia, the US and throughout Europe and have reduced the amount of drunk drivers on their roads.

"Alcohol interlocks are a good step forward in our battle against drunk driving," says AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

"A lot of the worst drink drivers are people with serious alcohol problems or who don’t have any respect for the law, so simply disqualifying them from driving achieves little.

"Our first priority has to be keeping drunk drivers off the road and an interlock is going to be much better at doing that."

While the vast majority of New Zealanders do not drink and drive, there is a small group of hard core offenders that are an enormous risk to everyone on the roads.

About 1 in 4 of the drink drivers currently caught will reoffend, and about 20% of 32,603 drink driving charges during 2010-2011 were third or more offences.

"The interlock is an important piece of the puzzle in terms of ending this scourge on our roads, but the AA would like to have seen the new law go further than it does," Mr Thomsen said.

The AA believes interlocks should be mandatory for repeat drink drivers or those caught with extremely high alcohol levels rather than optional, and they should also be installed immediately rather than after a three-month period of licence disqualification.

Increasing the amount of rehabilitation and treatment for the drunk drivers who have serious alcohol and drug issues is just as important.

"Unless we are dealing with the serious alcohol and drug issues many repeat drink drivers have, we’re just recycling them back into the community," says Mr Thomsen.

"Interlocks will keep drunk drivers off the road for the length of their sentence but to make a real difference we also need to treat their addictions."

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