24 Dec 2022

Alcohol lobby wants interlock devices for repeat drink-drivers

9:34 am on 24 December 2022
Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss demonstrated the alcohol interlock today.

Interlocks were the fourth-most popular reduction measure in a new survey, with 65 percent net support. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

As we head into Christmas, some of us have been getting merry - perhaps a bit too merry.

If a survey commissioned by the alcohol industry is anything to go by, the rest of us have had enough.

A poll, conducted by Curia for the industry representative group the Alcohol Beverages Council, found plenty of support for heavier fines for drunk and disorderly behaviour - and confiscating cars from repeat drink drivers.

But the number one reduction measure suggested was targeted support programmes for harmful drinkers - a net 88 percent in support, 7 percentage points higher than in last year's survey.

Council deputy chair Robert Brewer said that made "complete sense".

"Those people who hold their hand up and say they have an issue, they need specific support because what tends to happen is that if you say you've got specific issues… then it sometimes can get lumped in with other things that you're going through," he told Checkpoint.

Almost as many - a net 82 percent - wanted repeat drink-drivers to have their cars confiscated. Brewer wasn't so sure about that, preferring less punitive measures.

"The confiscating cars from repeat drink-drivers as a suggestion, that comes through every year pretty high. This year it's number two, I think last year it was number three.

"But you can see that number four is using alcohol interlocks - something which we support the mandatory use of."

Interlocks stop cars from starting if the would-be driver fails a breath test. They were the fourth-most popular reduction measure in the survey, with 65 percent net support.

Wellington police on Friday said they were disappointed after testing 2500 drivers on Thursday night and finding 15 of them over the limit.

Other popular measures the survey threw up included education programmes in schools (76 percent net support), heavier fines for drunk and disorderly behaviour (62 percent) and allowing police to issue spot fines for "minor alcohol-related offences" (52 percent).

Brewer said the findings weren't surprising, but pointed out drink-driving convictions have been falling for years - the annual figure down 44 percent in the past decade.

"It's a combination of - like, we're drinking less. It's become a slow and steady cultural change driven by a whole lot of different things."

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