Repeat drink driving offenders will find themselves faced with an additional hurdle before they start their engines from next month.
From February 1, NSW courts will introduce mandatory alcohol interlocks which will require drivers to pass an integrated breathalyser test before driving.
According to the NSW Centre for Transport Safety, the program aims to reduce the death toll on the state's roads. Drink driving currently accounts for 15 per cent of NSW road fatalities and injuries, and was estimated to cost the state $640 million each year from 2008 to 2012.
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Who the new regulations effect
The change will affect what the NSW government describes as repeat offenders, as well as those charged with other serious drink driving offences or who refuse to take a breath test. It also targets any driver caught with a high range blood alcohol reading of 0.150 (grams per 100 mls of blood) or more. The program covers car, motorcycle and heavy vehicle licence classes.
Duncan Gay, Minister for Roads and Freight said in a media release that the program could see an estimated 6,000 drivers being signed on each year.
"While we've seen a huge drop in alcohol-related road trauma over the last 30 years, it is a disgrace to still see over 20,000 drivers in NSW convicted of drink driving offences every year," says Mr Gay. "This program is about protecting innocent people who unfairly have their lives shattered by a drunken idiot."
Mr Gay stated that the NSW government wanted to focus on repeat offenders, who are usually charged with other drink driving offences within the space of five years.
What the interlock program involves
The alcohol interlock is a device linked to the ignition. Once it is fitted, drivers will have to pass a breathalyser test before they can start their vehicle. Random testing can also occur throughout a journey, to ensure the driver's blood alcohol reading remains at zero.
Serious offenders will be subject to a minimum licence disqualification period before the interlock period begins, lasting 12 months minimum for those charged with such offences.
Drivers will be issued with an interlock licence with subsequent imposed driving conditions. These include driving with a zero breath alcohol limit and only driving in a vehicle fitted with an interlock.
Monitoring and progress through the program
Participants will have to arrange for an approved interlock provider to both install and maintain the device on their vehicle. The interlock provider will also conduct regular mandatory inspections to collect the data gathered by the device.
The data collected by the interlock program will be monitored by Roads and Maritime Services, who may contact drivers who continue to attempt to drink and drive and recommend they see a medical professional. Roads and Maritime Services may also extend the interlock period for drivers who persist in attempted drink driving and refer them for a Fitness to Drive Assessment.
On the other hand, Roads and Marine Services may also return the driver to an unrestricted or provisional licence status upon a participant satisfactorily completing the program.
Once their licence disqualification period is complete, the interlock program will cost participants $2,200 for the year. However, the program does offer what it calls a 'tiered pricing structure', with those facing financial difficulty possibly eligible for full subsidisation of program costs. The interlock program charge does not cover any other additional fines issued by the court.
For those who attempt to work around the program, Mr Gay warns that the penalties will be harsh, with those who aid participants in abusing the system subject to a $2,200 fine.
"I will not stand for drink drivers who gamble with other people's lives due to their stupid and irresponsible actions."