More than 2300 attempts to drink and drive have been prevented by alcohol interlocks since they were introduced in New Zealand.
Alcohol interlocks are like an in-car breathalyser and in 2012 became a sentencing option in the courts for drink drivers.
The latest issue of AA Directions magazine (Winter, 2015) has investigated how well interlocks are working and figures show that as at May this year, there had been 2369 attempts by people with an interlock in their vehicle to drive with alcohol in their system. The devices prevented the vehicles from starting.
“If not for interlocks there would have been thousands of times that a drunk driver was back out on the road putting lives at risk,” says AA Motoring Affairs general manager Mike Noon.
The Directions article also reveals that, unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of drink drivers are being sentenced to the devices.
An AA research report found that in the first year interlocks were available, nearly 12,000 repeat or high-level drink drivers could have been sentenced to have to use one. But of those near 12,000, barely 200 drink drivers were sentenced to an interlock.
“In May there were just 270 interlocks in use in New Zealand. That number is embarrassingly small,” says Mr Noon. “If we are serious about reducing the number of crashes involving alcohol then we need to be using interlocks much, much more.”
A Government review of the penalties for drink driving is currently underway and the AA wants all repeat and high-level first time drink drivers to be sentenced to an alcohol interlock. We also want interlocks to be combined with more assessment and treatment of drink divers who have alcohol issues.
“Most drink drivers right now are given a fine and have their licence suspended but, without an interlock, there is nothing physically stopping them from getting back behind the wheel after drinking.
“Interlocks have reduced drink-driving reoffending by up to 90% in other countries and are the most effective weapon we have against drink-driving. The problem is we are leaving them sitting in the holster.”