Roads and Ports Minister Duncan Gay has announced alcohol interlocks are to be made mandatory for high range and repeat drink drive offenders, in a bid to reduce the number of drink-driving offences.
High range drink driving is anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.150 or above. A repeat drink driver is some-one who has committed at least two PCA offences within 5 years.
Alcohol interlocks are an electronic device connected to the ignition of a vehicle preventing it from starting if the driver has been drinking, providing an effective physical barrier between drinking and driving.
Legislation will be introduced into Parliament next year, which also will provide for additional penalties for drivers who exceed their demerit point limit.
The decision to introduce alcohol interlocks follows a suggestion from NRMA Motoring & Services.
“I congratulate the NRMA for this sensible and important proposal,” Mr Gay said.
“The installation of mandatory interlocks means drivers who have been convicted of high range or repeat drink driving will be physically prevented from drink driving in the future because the interlock will prevent the vehicle from starting,” he said.
“Road safety experts estimate the introduction of mandatory interlocks will prevent at least 140 alcohol related crashes, six fatalities and 102 injuries in the first five years alone.
“We also believe there will also be about 500 fewer drink driving offences per year across the state once mandatory interlocks are introduced,” the Minister said.
Drink drivers who are convicted of a second or subsequent offence in a five year period will also be required to pass a driving knowledge test.
Additional penalties will also be introduced for drivers who exceed their demerit point limit twice in five years, requiring these drivers to re-sit the Driver Knowledge Test and complete a driver education course.
“These penalties bring to account those drivers who take the greatest risks and put others at serious danger,” Mr Gay said.
There is a small group of drivers who continue to commit these serious driving offences and a stronger penalty regime is needed.
“We are coming down hard on these high risk drink driving offenders; our research shows about one in six drivers convicted of drink driving reoffend within five years and with around 26,000 drink drivers convicted each year, this is a significant issue.
“Drivers convicted of drink driving offences pose a particularly high risk to the community.”
NRMA Motoring & Services President Wendy Machin said today’s announcement by the NSW Government was a strong policy that would help keep people safe on our roads.
“An NRMA survey found 80 per cent of people ranked tougher penalties for dangerous and repeat drink driver offenders as the top priority to keep roads safe – this policy shows that the Government has listened to the public,” Ms Machin said.
“When you consider that 17 per cent of drink drivers reoffend it’s clear we need tougher penalties and that’s why the NRMA first proposed that this policy be introduced last year.
“We commend the NSW Government for announcing today that alcohol interlocks will soon become law, along with tougher penalties for drivers who exceed their demerit points twice within five years.”
Alcohol related crashes are five times more likely to be fatal compared to all other crashes, resulting in horrific consequences for those involved and their loved ones.
There is an alcohol interlock program operating in NSW, but it is a voluntary system and has only 700 participants.
All high range and repeat offenders will be required to fit an interlock for a minimum of 12 months which could see up to 8,000 people a year with interlocks in their vehicle.
Magistrates will have the power to set longer periods on the interlock if they think it is justified.
Once the legislation has been passed, a tender process will begin to arrange accredited providers of interlocks to start the program.
The mandatory interlock program was developed by the NSW Government in consultation with key stakeholders including the NSW Road Safety Advisory Council and NRMA Motoring & Services.