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Expert doubts alcohol interlock strategy will work

Expert doubts alcohol interlock strategy will work.

Alcohol interlocks – which stop a car being started if the driver is drunk – won’t work for many of the highest risk offenders, says a leading road safety campaigner.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website, says:

“Alcohol interlocks may work for wealthy people with modern cars. They won’t work for the highest risk groups, who tend to own cars that can be started with a screwdriver.”

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Bevan Shane Marino, a South Auckland gang associate who caused a multiple fatality while drunk and on cannabis. His own 3-year old son, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown through the windscreen of the car. Marino was driving erratically and at high speed. His bald left rear tyre shredded and he lost control, killing two German tourists and two of his passengers.

A 2009 AA study of 300 fatal crashes found:

“It is apparent that [many speed-based road fatalities] were caused by people who don't care about any kind of rules. These are men who speed, drink, don't wear safety belts, have no valid license or WoF - who are basically renegades. They usually end up wrapped around a tree, but they can also overtake across a yellow line and take out other motorists as well.”

Matthew-Wilson says cost and the lack of access to a legal vehicle will deter many high-risk offenders from participating in the scheme.

“Under the New Zealand government scheme, the offender will have to pay $150 per month for the interlock in return for a reduced period of disqualification. To have any real effect, alcohol interlocks would have to be fitted on the cars of all drink-drive offenders.”

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“Recent studies have shown a reduction in reoffending of about 28-65% after an alcohol interlock is installed. However, once the interlock is removed from the vehicle after the period of disqualification ends, offenders often drink-drive once more.”

Matthew-Wilson says the two most effective ways of preventing alcohol-related fatalities were to heavily limit the commercialisation of alcohol and to require drink drivers to undergo therapy. A 2006 English study concluded: “Treatment for alcohol problems is cost-effective… Overall, for every £1 spent on treatment, £5 is saved elsewhere.”


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