Vehicle technology

Title: A Review of International Evidence on the Use of Alcohol Ignition Interlocks in Drink-Drive Offences

Organisation: Department for Transport
Date uploaded: 17th November 2011
Date published/launched: Pre 2009

This report reviews the international experience regarding implementation of alcohol ignition interlock programmes and gathers expert advice related to the current knowledge regarding benefits and challenges to implementing such programmmes.

Two decades on from the initial development of the interlock, interlock programmes are (or soon will be) available for drink-driving offenders in all but two US States and two Canadian provinces and territories.

The level of implementation of the interlock programmes varies widely. In Australia, there is a major programme in Victoria and some smaller ones elsewhere. Progress in Europe has been much slower. Programmes exist in Sweden, Finland and the Hautee Savoie region of France. The Netherlands intends to run a trial in 2008/09. Other jurisdictions have, as yet, shown little signs of interest.

The review of international experience was undertaken under five main headings:
Set-up issues
Operational issues
Scheme effectiveness
Future issues

To ensure compliance with the programme, it is essential that the various violations and their associated sanctions are made clear and that effective monitoring of clients is implemented. It should be recognised that most offenders will commit some minor violations as they get used to the equipment. By contrast, the level of attempted circumvention in offender programmes is extremely low often reported as less than 1%.

In addition to any financial penalties, there is now a move towards open-ended programmes in which the offender must show a violation-free record for a period of three to 12 months before being allowed to apply for a full, unrestricted licence. Some jurisdictions impose short jail terms for the most serious violations.

Advances in technology mean that cameras to identify the individual who provided the breath sample can now be incorporated into the device. Other possibilities for the future include passive alcohol detection. Trends in interlock programmes are towards installing the interlock as soon as possible after the offence, dispensing with any initial period of disqualification, and adopting a criterion-based approach to completing the programme.

One final issue relates to the increasing sophistication of the electronic systems of modern cars which threaten the future installation of interlocks.

For more information contact:
Andrew Clayton, RSN

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