14 Jul 2015

Call for dashboard breathalysers to be funded

5:47 pm on 14 July 2015

A criminal barrister specialising in drink driving cases says in-car breathalysers should be funded if the Government is serious about stamping out drink driving.

Thousands of attempts to drink-drive have been stopped since in-car breathalysers were introduced in 2012.

A pregnant woman with passengers in her car has been caught drink driving in Nelson the police say.

Photo: AFP

The devices, known as alcohol interlocks, became an option for courts three years ago as sentence for drink drivers.

The Automobile Association said figures show that as at May this year, there had been 2369 attempts by people with an interlock in their vehicle to drive with alcohol in their system.

The devices prevented the vehicles from starting.

The AA estimated that only about 200 and 70 interlock devices are currently fitted to cars, representing just two percent of people caught drinking and driving.

Criminal barrister Steve Cullen said the problem was that a lot of the recidivist drink drivers were at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and could not afford the $2000 cost of an interlock.

He said a simple solution would be to fund interlock devices.

An AA research report found that in the first year interlocks were available, nearly 12,000 repeat or high-level drink drivers could have been sentenced to have to use one.

Of those, barely 200 drink drivers were sentenced to an interlock.

"If not for interlocks there would have been thousands of times that a drunk driver was back out on the road putting lives at risk," said AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon.

"In May there were just 270 interlocks in use in New Zealand. That number is embarrassingly small," Mr Noon said.

"If we are serious about reducing the number of crashes involving alcohol then we need to be using interlocks much, much more."

A Government review of the penalties for drink driving is under way, and the AA wants all repeat and high-level first time drink drivers to be sentenced to an alcohol interlock.

"Interlocks have reduced drink-driving reoffending by up to 90 percent in other countries and are the most effective weapon we have against drink-driving. The problem is we are leaving them sitting in the holster," said Mr Noon.