Wider interlock use a positive move towards lower road toll

A PUSH from the state government to have interlock devices installed on the cars of all drink-drivers in Victoria is a positive step in reducing alcohol-related injuries and deaths.

It is one of the biggest safety reforms promoted by governments in recent years, along with the imposition of the .05 blood alcohol limit, compulsory seatbelts and random drug-testing.

When we review the significant reductions in road fatalities, Victoria has been a leader and the evidence for further change is compelling.

At the introduction of the blood alcohol limit in 1976, 49 per cent of all drivers killed were found to be in excess of .05 limit. By the early 1990s, the figure was just above 20 per cent.

More recent figures continue to tell authorities that alcohol remains a major contributor to road fatalities. To reach the ultimate goal of even greater reductions in the road toll, governments must look at new methods.

Increased safety provisions built into modern vehicles – such as multiple airbags, better braking systems and electronic stability control – have mitigated the outcome of accidents in many circumstances as has investment in better roads and transport systems.

Public discussion and reinforcement of safety messages have improved driver behaviour, yet there remain some who will run the gauntlet. The fitting of interlock devices, currently imposed only for repeat offenders, drivers who blow .15 or more and those aged under 26 who blow .07 has also made a difference to road safety. 

Not only do the devices provide logistical disincentives for drivers to drink but they also come with a large fitting cost – sometimes of more than $1000 – making the potential penalty for offenders also financially onerous.

It’s also a more palatable option than a further reduction in the blood alcohol limit to .02 which would have been a broad-brush approach to an issue which, hopefully, impacts only the minority.

Almost everyone has a story about the impact of a road accident on the family, friends or workmates.

A strong approach to reducing the toll by having interlock devices fitted to the cars of all drink-drivers will be widely welcomed.

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