Recidivist drink drivers in South Canterbury are among the first in the country to be given the option of installing an alcohol inter-lock device in their car.
Said driver gets to apply for the device after three months without a licence, and once installed the car won't go if alcohol is detected in a breath sample.
If the driver behaves himself (invariably it's a bloke) for a year after that he can apply to get his licence back. If granted, for the next three years he's on a zero alcohol licence, and then he returns to the normal motoring fold.
It's another tool for the law enforcers.
It's also a lot of hoops for repeat drink drivers to jump through.
Timaru criminal defence lawyer Jay Lovely wrote an informative piece on the new device in Friday's paper, expressing hope the technology will bring down the level of reoffending.
We'd all agree with him, but even he conceded that the repeat offenders can't seem to help themselves.
The drink driving stems from a deeper problem, recidivist drinking.
It is easy from the sidelines to dismiss the initiative as idealistic, to imagine all sorts of ways a drink driver could get around the system and highlight all the steps (and cost) required to successfully get one's licence back.
But at least the lawmakers are trying to do something.
Repeat drink-drivers are a menace, with the worst ones ending up in prison. As they get to that stage, their terms of disqualification lengthen until they reach a point of "what's the use, I may as well keep driving". The tools available now to deal with such people don't work.
At least the inter-lock option brings the light at the end of the tunnel a little closer, perhaps even within reach. And for that driver in that car, it removes temptation. If they've been drinking, the car won't go. Simple.
So here's hoping the option will be taken up by some repeat offenders. We'd love to write a story in 15 months of how someone negotiated the road back to sober driving.
- The Timaru Herald