Repeat drink-drivers in Northland are failing to undertake a new government initiative to prevent them from driving after drinking alcohol because of the costs involved.
Whangarei police prosecutors say judges are reluctant to impose the alcohol ignition interlock on recidivist drink-drivers because it costs nearly $2400 a year per person to have the device on a vehicle.
Since September 10, 2012, district court judges have been able to impose an alcohol ignition interlock for a minimum of 12 months on repeat drink-drivers. An alcohol interlock is a device similar to a breathalyser that is connected to a vehicle's starting system.
Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must provide a breath sample. If the analysed result is higher than the pre-programmed breath-alcohol level, the vehicle will not start. As of last week, 26 offenders have had alcohol interlock sanctions impose throughout the country, but none has been imposed by Northland district courts.
Whangarei-based Smart Start Interlocks are contracted by the Government to install the interlock device on vehicles nationwide.
Offenders have to lease the device at $175 per month or $2100 a year, on top of paying $170 for installation and a further $125 for it to be disconnected.
But Smart Start Interlocks' owner Gavin Foster said unless changes were made to lenient sentencing options available to offenders, they would object to the new initiative.
"A lot of people caught [drink-driving] for the second or third time opt for an $800 fine and a minimum six-month disqualification rather than go for the interlock device."
Mr Foster said it should not be a matter of cost but priority in putting back to offenders the consequences of their actions.
Mr Foster said the devices did work in Australia and the United States and reckoned it would take some time before results were seen in New Zealand.
In the Australian state of Victoria, he said interlock devices were mandatory on drivers with three or more convictions.