9 Aug 2016

Dashboard breathalysers to be mandatory for repeat offenders

5:53 pm on 9 August 2016

Alcohol interlocks, which prevent a car from starting if alcohol is detected on the breath, will soon become compulsory for serious drink drivers and repeat offenders.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss demonstrated the alcohol interlock.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss demonstrated the alcohol interlock today. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss has announced anyone caught drink driving twice within five years, or anyone caught more than 3.2 times over the legal limit, will receive an interlock sentence.

Drivers have to breathe into the alcohol interlock, which is wired into the car, and if it detects alcohol on the driver's breath it prevents the car from starting.

The government estimates 4000 to 5000 drivers a year will have to have the devices fitted.

Mr Foss said alcohol interlocks were previously an option at sentencing for repeat drink drivers - but they would now be mandatory.

"The mission here is to keep New Zealanders safe on the road and to keep those offenders actually safe, and to start to address and hopefully change behaviour."

Mr Foss said research showed interlocks reduced reoffending by about 60 percent.

"Our road toll is much, much too high. Drink driving causes an average of 77 deaths, 436 serious injuries and 1252 minor injuries on our roads every year. "

Previously, alcohol interlocks have been funded by the offenders but the cost - between $2400 and $2800 for a 12 month sentence - has meant some offenders have not been able to afford them.

The government has proposed putting $4 million of financial assistance into the scheme, but it was not yet clear what impact that funding would have on reducing costs.

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