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The New Zealand Alcohol Interlock Program. A review of its first year as a sentencing option

Waters, G (Peer reviewed)


ARSC conference 2015


Despite decreasing overall convictions for drink driving 2009-2012 in New Zealand (NZ), convictions for high risk (repeat or high level) drink driving increased. Evidence shows alcohol ignition interlocks reduce drink driving compared to existing sanctions (licence disqualification and fines). In 2011 legislation enabled the introduction of an Alcohol Interlock Program (AIP) for high risk drink drivers in NZ. This paper reviews the AIP in its first year as a sentencing option for high risk drink drivers. Ministry of Justice and NZ Transport Agency data was reviewed and stakeholders and participants of the AIP provided information. For the period 10 September 2012 to 9 September 2013 there were 23,362 drivers convicted of drink/drug driving. Of these, 11,692 (50%) met the criteria for the AIP: 6,639 repeat convictions and 5,053 first time convictions over double the legal limit. Only 228 offenders received an alcohol interlock sentence in addition to other penalties (2% of those eligible), far fewer than expected. Stakeholders report multiple barriers to uptake of the AIP: cost; more attractive alternative sentences (shorter duration, shorter stand-down period, less cost); legal loopholes (e.g. competing 'mandatory' sentences); and use of the Zero Alcohol licence (introduced as part of the AIP) as a stand-alone alternative. The AIP has been involved in High Court Appeals, further reducing judges' confidence in this option. A mandatory AIP sentence for this cohort of drivers would bring NZ into line with international and Australian jurisdictions. _x000D_