Six beer habit earns first interlock

AMY MAAS
Last updated 08:56 30/12/2012
KRISSY DWYER/Fairfax NZ

A repeated drink driver talks to Stuff about being the first person to have an alcohol interlock device installed in his car.

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A Christchurch painter has become the first person to have a court-ordered breathalyser installed in his car after the recidivist drink-driver blew it on his fifth offense.

Two years ago, Orean Te Amora, 28, sculled back six beers before getting behind the wheel and driving to the gym. It was part of his "daily routine". But this time a police stop on Auckland's North Shore had him working up a sweat when he blew three times over the legal limit.

"To be honest, I was an alcoholic. I drank every day after work and still maintained a full- time job," he said.

He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court on September 19, when he was instantly disqualified for three months and ordered to apply for an Alcohol Interlock Licence.

The devices became a sentencing option for repeat drink-drivers in August.

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. Before the car can be started, a person must blow into the device and it has to give a zero- alcohol reading.

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 device is not a sentencing option for offenders who have caused a serious crash where persons have died or been injured.

Automobile Association 2010-11 figures show police laid 32,603 drink-driving charges - 6702 against drivers for at least the third time, the hardcore repeat offenders.

Te Amora said he was thankful the device was a sentencing option for him and - after a long struggle - he managed to wean himself off alcohol after suffering seizures.

"I've done rehab, I've not had a drink for two years. Jail would be a waste of time for me," he said.

"It just shows initiative, I think. If you can work to make the money to have the device installed then it's showing that you want to change. The only key is you've got to want to not drink, there's no secret answer, that's all there is to it."

The device is not cheap. Te Amora says he's lucky to be able to afford it through his job as a painter in Christchurch, where he moved nine months ago.

While the licence alone costs $200, there is an initial installation fee of $340 and monthly payments of $170 for a year.

Paul Newnham, service manager at Draeger, said that forcing drink- drivers to install the device was a "great comfort" for road users. "Driving is an enormous exercise in trust, in my opinion, and it gives me great comfort to know that somebody who's a repeat offender can't jump behind the wheel of their vehicle and drive it without passing some sort of a test," he said.

"Any enforcement tool that moves in the direction of helping people or forcing people to change their habits is beneficial."

The AA said it "championed" the mandatory use of alcohol interlock devices and hopes that Te Amora's cautionary tale is the "first of many".

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"It's a very important road safety technology that at the end of the day is going to result in lives being saved and making drivers and everyone else safer on the roads," said spokesman Simon Lambourne.

While it was "too soon" to say whether the devices would result in a lower death toll, it would be a "positive step to help those who do having drinking problems in addressing their problems in so far as drinking and driving," he said.

 

THE LOCK-DOWN

The alcohol interlock device became a sentencing option for repeat drink- drivers in August.

The device can be installed only by two approved companies - Draeger or Smart Start NZ.

The device works as an engine immobiliser and is installed inside the engine, connected to the starting system.

A cable connects a breathalyser to the engine device. Before a driver can start the car they must blow into the machine, where a breath sample is taken to detect any alcohol.

The car will not start if the alcohol reading is not at zero.

The device must be installed for a minimum of 12 months, but can be removed after six months if the court approves.

- Fairfax Media

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