Alcohol interlocks prevent near 40,000 attempts to drive

7 December 2021

Alcohol interlocks prevent near 40,000 attempts to drive

Alcohol interlocks in the cars of high-risk drunk drivers stopped 37,061 attempts to use the vehicle in 2020.

An alcohol interlock is like an in car breathalyser that became a mandatory sentence for many high-risk drunk drivers from 2018 in New Zealand.

Once they are installed the driver has to do a breath test before turning the car on and if the device detects alcohol above a certain level it will not let the vehicle start – as happened on 37,061 occasions last year.

“Interlocks stopped more than 100 high-risk drunk drivers with alcohol in their system from being out on our roads every day in 2020,” says AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

“100 potential drunk drivers stopped each and every day is a staggering number – especially when you consider that there are only a few thousand interlocks in use across the country.

“The figures show once again why the AA calls interlocks the best weapon we have in the fight against drunk driving.

“If there weren’t interlocks in those vehicles, those drivers would have simply turned the key and been able to put themselves and others at risk on the road again. Instead the car just won’t start and there’s no risk of a crash.”

The data the AA has gathered does not consistently record what level of alcohol was in the driver’s system but interlock providers say that a substantial proportion of the attempts are at levels above the legal limit.

Unfortunately, other figures obtained by the AA show that we are still falling well short of the numbers of interlocks we should have on our roads.

In 2020 there were 3488 drunk drivers sentenced to an interlock yet only 2359 devices installed.

“One in three of the people sentenced to an interlock are not obeying their sentence and actually ending up with an interlock in their car,” says Dylan.

“Chances are they are just continuing to drive illegally and will quite likely end up drunk behind the wheel again at some time.

“There is no follow-up in the current system to make sure the people who are sentenced to an interlock follow through on getting a device.

“It’s a huge loophole that needs to be urgently fixed.

“A few thousand interlocks are stopping tens of thousands of potential drunk driving attempts a year and we should be using them much more than we are.

“Alcohol impairment was a factor in nearly 70 fatal crashes in 2020 and we have stalled in making any reductions in drunk driving since 2014.

“Making sure every high-risk drunk driver gets an interlock is one of the keys to New Zealand’s battle against impaired driving, along with lifting the number of roadside alcohol tests back up to where they used to be, more assessment and treatment for those with addiction issues and introducing roadside drug testing.”

For more information contact:

Dylan Thomsen
Road safety spokesperson
New Zealand Automobile Association
M. 027 703 9935

The New Zealand Automobile Association is an incorporated society with more than 1.8 million Members. It represents the interests of road users who collectively pay more than $2 billion in taxes each year through fuels excise, road user charges and GST.

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