13 Aug 2012

More powers to act against repeat drink-drivers

11:46 am on 13 August 2012

The Government is giving judges more powers to act against repeat drink-drivers.

From 10 September the courts will soon be able to impose zero alcohol limits on repeat offenders and enforce the installation of breathalyser devices to disable their cars if they've been drinking.

Offenders will have to pay an alcohol interlock licence fee of $200 and also pay for the device's installation and a monthly lease. Zero alcohol licences costing $66 will ban drivers from drinking any alcohol before driving for three years.

More than 30,000 people are charged with drink-driving each year, and about one in five of them have at least two previous convictions.

Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges says the new sanctions, made possible by a law change last year, will help stop drink-drivers from reoffending and make the roads safer for everyone.

The Health Promotion Agency's head of research, Andrew Hearn, says overseas experience shows dashboard breathalysers that prevent a car from starting if alcohol is detected cut reoffending by 60% to 90%.

Automobile Association spokesperson Dylan Thomsen says overseas experience shows the devices are very effective in stopping drink-driving and the AA would have liked them to be made compulsory for repeat-drink-drivers.

However, an Upper Hutt barrister, Stephen Iorns, says the new measures may be of some use only in a minority of cases. A lot of recidivist drink-drivers, he says, are chronic alcoholics, "so a zero limit perhaps wouldn't help those."

Both Mr Iorns and Mr Thomsen say more resources need to be put into rehabilitation programmes.