NZ Finally Increasing Best Weapon Against Drink Driving

7th August 2017

Alcohol interlocks becoming a mandatory sentence is one of the most significant blows against drink driving in New Zealand’s history, says the Automobile Association.

“Alcohol interlocks are the best weapon we have to keep drink drivers off the road but, until now, they’ve been sitting in the holster,” says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon.

“The law has now finally been changed to make it mandatory for the highest risk drink drivers to have to get an interlock put in their vehicle. That is going to mean less drink drivers getting back behind the wheel, less crashes and less lives lost.

“One third of the deaths on our roads right now involve alcohol and we have to do more to stop them.”

The Government’s Land Transport Amendment Bill that passed into law yesterday will make alcohol interlocks a mandatory sentence for repeat drink drivers or those caught at very high levels of intoxication.

Alcohol interlocks are like an in car breathalyser that requires the driver to do tests before and during a car trip. If the driver has any alcohol in their system the car will not start.

About 10,000 drink drivers eligible for an interlock normally appear in courts each year but under the previous sentencing system only a few hundred were receiving an interlock sentence.

Even so, in 2016 the less than 400 interlocks currently active in New Zealand stopped a driver affected by alcohol being able to start their car 2124 times.

“The AA is going to be closely monitoring the number of drink drivers receiving interlocks from 2018. If we can get at least 5000 offenders a year having an interlock put in their vehicle it’s going to likely prevent tens of thousands of attempts to drink and drive,” says Mr Noon.

International evaluations have found alcohol interlocks reduce reoffending by an average of 60% and in the Australian state of Victoria interlocks have stopped someone affected by alcohol driving more than 250,000 times since they were introduced in 2003.

“The AA praises the Government for striking another blow against drink driving. What we have to do now is make sure that the law delivers the results intended and that the thousands of eligible offenders each year definitely do end up with an interlock in their vehicle.”

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