The first drink-drivers sentenced under new legislation will
be eligible to install an alcohol interlock system for their
vehicles from today.
A Government report released to the Herald showed 16 drink
drivers have been issued with the alcohol-detecting devices
since they became a sentencing option three months ago.
Two offenders sentenced on September 10 would be eligible
from today for licences to drive with the interlocks after a
three-month disqualification period.
Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the figures
were encouraging and expected the number to rise as judges
made greater use of the measure, introduced under the
Government's Safer Journeys strategy.
"I think it's a good start and I'm confident it's going to
become an increasingly important sentencing tool for the
courts, and that the numbers will shoot up over time."
Mr Bridges said the interlocks were an important measure to
prevent drink-drivers from re-offending and help make the
roads safer for motorists.
Other recent measures include a three-year "zero alcohol"
licence sanction for repeat offenders, a zero blood alcohol
limit for drivers under 20 and a doubled maximum penalty for
drink or drugged driving causing death.
The Government would consider suggested improvements to the
interlock system when it came to review the law in a year, Mr
The Automobile Association's motoring affairs general
manager, Mike Noon, said the organisation would continue to
call for the interlocks to be made mandatory for all drink
drivers caught a second time.
"We'd also like them to be able to be applied immediately,
rather than after a stand-down period," he said.
This would prevent drivers them from using their vehicles
during the disqualification period.
Other vehicles the offenders tried to use instead should be
confiscated and forfeited, Mr Noon said.
"We are extremely supportive of the interlocks and our
members have very little tolerance for repeat drink drivers,
and are very unhappy that those drivers may be coming at them
from the other way.
"We catch between 30,000 and 35,000 drink drivers each year.
The problem is that very many of those - [around] one in five
- we have caught before."
"So the issue is, what we are going to do to fix those
drivers who need more alcohol and rehabilitation?"
Drink and drug-driving researcher Dr Gerald Waters said the
most effective approach was ordering all convicted offenders
to install the alcohol interlocks.
He cited research from New Mexico, where an increase in
compulsory interlocks over the past decade had corresponded
with a decline in crashes and injuries.
Those ordered to install them this year ranged in age from 23
to 49. Six orders were made in the Auckland District Court,
four in Porirua District Court, two each in the Henderson and
Upper Hutt district court, and one each in the South Auckland
and Hastings district courts.
- Jamie Morton, NZ Herald