Alcohol interlocks to become mandatory for NZ's worst drink-drivers
New Zealand's worst drink-drivers will soon be forced to have devices installed in their cars which stop them from driving over the limit - and they'll have to foot the bill.
The Government says making the alcohol interlock devices mandatory for serious and repeat drink-drivers will makes Kiwis safer - and a former offender says the device kept him from having "blood on my hands".
Alcohol interlock devices disable a vehicle from being driven if alcohol is detected on the breath of a driver, who must breathe into the system to start the engine.
Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss announced the devices will become mandatory for anyone convicted of two or more drink-driving offences within five years, as well as first-time offenders caught driving more than 3.2 times over the legal limit.
Foss said the move would target drink-drivers who were "seriously abusing our rules and regulations" and help keep Kiwis safe.
"Far too many funerals" were happening in New Zealand because of drink-driving, with alcohol a factor in at least two-thirds of all fatalities on the country's roads.
Once up and running, up to 5000 people a year would have a sentence involving a mandatory interlock, Foss said - up from about two per cent of a similar number at the moment.
The interlock would typically be in place for a year, with the sentence starting again if an offender blew a positive test with the device.
OFFENDERS TO PAY FOR INTERLOCKS
Offenders would have to report to a service centre once a month for the data from their interlocks to be uploaded.
While it was always possible for people to abuse the system, Foss said there would be "significant penalties" - including potential jail time - for those who tampered or abused the interlocks.
Cabinet had agreed to provide $4 million of funding to help pay for the devices, as the $2500 cost to install and run them was one of the main barriers to their use.
However, offenders would have still have to pay for the interlocks, with the government funding going towards a subsidy scheme.
'I COULD HAVE HAD BLOOD ON MY HANDS'
Drink-driver Luke Bickerstaff, who had an alcohol interlock installed in his car after his second drink-driving offence, said the device was "a genuine lifesaver".
"It changes your whole behaviour and your attitude towards drink-driving...
"Every time you blow into that device, it's a reminder of what you've done, your previous wrongdoings, and it just changes behaviour."
Bickerstaff he had failed the interlock test a couple of times while it was in his car, but had not driven drunk since it was removed.
"If I didn't have that device in the car, I could have potentially been injured in an accident, I could have injured someone else, I could have had someone else's blood on my hands if I had a serious accident, so it's definitely something to think about."
INTERLOCKS 'BEST WEAPON' AGAINST DRINK'DRIVING
AA spokesman Dylan Thomsen said the motorists' organisation was a big supporter of alcohol interlocks, which were "the best weapon there is in the fight against drink-driving".
"All the other countries in the world that have an interlock, you're looking at a 35 to 90 per cent drop in drink driving reoffending - they are just the best tool there is at keeping drink-drivers off the roads."
In New Zealand, interlocks already stopped about 100 drink-driving attempts a month for the two per cent of offenders who had them in their cars, Thomsen said.
"Without a doubt we're going to see lives saved and less people hurt...the more interlocks we have in cars, the less drink-drivers we're going to have out on the roads putting people at risk."
Road safety charity Brake also welcomed the Government's announcement, with NZ director Caroline Perry saying she was pleased with the "hardline approach" to drink-driving.
Foss said a law to make the interlocks mandatory was currently being drafted, and he hoped it would be in place by the end of 2017.