Over 200 drivers have been ordered to have breathalyser-like devices connected to their cars to stop them from drink driving.
The sentencing option became available last year in September, and allowed repeat drink-drive offenders and first time offenders convicted of driving with blood alcohol levels double the current adult limit to be given an alcohol interlock disqualification.
An alcohol interlock is a device similar to a breathalyser that is connected to a vehicle's starting system.
Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must provide a breath sample.
If the analysed result is higher than the pre-programmed breath-alcohol level, the vehicle will not start. Interlocks in New Zealand are effectively set for a zero limit, said the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
In the first year the sanctions have been available, 242 alcohol interlock sentences have been handed down by the courts to 220 offenders, with 77 interlock licences issued by NZTA.
Of the 77 offenders who have received interlock licences, 68 have had interlocks fitted to their vehicles.
At sentencing, offenders are ordered to apply for a $200 Alcohol Interlock Licence.
The pink licence means they can only drive a car that has the breathalyser device fitted.
The device is then installed by Auckland-based company Draeger, and works in a similar way to a car immobiliser.
The licence must be held for a minimum of 12 months. However, if drug and alcohol tests come back clean after six months, and the court approves it, the device could be removed.
The reason there were more sanctions than offenders is that in some cases a judge would impose more than one sanction, for more than one offence, on a single offender.
Because of the three month disqualification, there was also a three-month lag between a sanction being ordered, and an offender being able to apply for an interlock licence.
Transport Agency Road Safety Director Ernst Zollner said the licences were part of an effort to reduce drink-driving related deaths.
"There are now more than 200 serious and repeat drink-drive offenders who will only be able drive legally if they have an interlock fitted which will prevent their car from starting if any alcohol is detected on their breath - and that means our roads are safer for everyone," he said.
Other initiatives to prevent drink driving-related deaths and injuries included a zero blood alcohol limit for all drivers under the age of 20, and a doubled maximum penalty for drink or drugged driving causing death.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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