Thousands of Kiwis need to be stopped from drink-driving every year and the number of alcohol interlocks on cars ordered by the courts has sky-rocketed after a crack-down.
But, the number of people being killed in alcohol-related crashes has continued to rise, with advocates of interlocks, a device which requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece before starting or continuing to operate the vehicle, saying it's too soon to see the programme's full effect and many more are likely to be installed.
More than 4000 alcohol interlock devices have been ordered by the courts following a legal change in July last year.
However, statistics released to the Herald show drink-driving remains a deadly problem.
Last year, 76 people died in crashes in which alcohol was a contributing factor, up from 74 in 2017 and 67 in 2016, provisional data from the Ministry of Transport shows.
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Ministry of Transport manager mobility and safety Brent Johnston said serious and repeat drink-driving offenders posed a significant road safety risk.
"International evidence shows that interlocks reduce drink-driving reoffending rates by an average of 60 per cent while the devices are fitted."
Alcohol interlock sentences have been an option for judges since September 2012 but only 2 per cent of eligible offenders - 228 - received the sentence in the first year.
But they became mandatory for serious and recidivist offenders on July 1 last year and in the subsequent year 4227 alcohol interlock sentences were handed down.
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"This is very encouraging for a programme that has been in place less than a year," Johnston said.
"However, it is still early days and we are continuing to monitor progress."
New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) road safety spokesman Dylan Thomsen said global research showed that interlocks were one of the most effective tools to stop drunk drivers getting back behind the wheel.
"We were hoping to see 5000 high-risk offenders a year getting sentenced to an interlock," he said.
According to research undertaken by the AA, about half of those sentenced to an interlock did not seem to go on to apply for an interlock licence, he said.
"They will likely end up driving drunk again because they have nothing physically stopping them from doing it again, which is the whole purpose of the interlock."
However, Thomsen said a combination approach was needed to reduce drink-driving.
Rehabilitation treatment, specialised court pilots and traditional law enforcement were all essential, he said.
Over the years there had been "huge cultural change" and now a huge number of people would not drink a drop of alcohol if they were going to be driving, he said.
It was a small group that need to be targeted, he said.
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said part of the solution came back to roadside testing.
"There has been a huge reduction in the number of drink-drive roadside tests that the police conduct," Bell said.
Police statistics show that while nearly 1.95 million breath tests were conducted in 2016, that figure dropped to 1.7 million in 2017 and just under 1.4 million last year.
"We think those should be much more visible. I think that will have a greater impact on the general population," Bell said.
National manager for road policing Superintendent Steve Greally said, for police, quality enforcement meant being in the right place at the right time.
"It's not simply about numbers," Greally said.
Part of the balancing act was between taking targeted action and maintaining general visibility on the road, he said.
"But we cannot do this alone, if every person also took responsibility for their actions when using the road and followed these basic rules, everybody would be safer."
Smart Start Interlocks director Gavin Foster said under the previous legislation his company had only installed 400 or 500 of the devices.
But now they installed about 150 to 200 a month.
At first people were often upset, angry or embarrassed about having an interlock installed, he said.
"These devices, they are not birthday presents. They are not something people are pleased to have."
But as time wore on it helped people change life-long bad habits and they often ended up remarking on the positives, he said.
Foster agreed with other advocates that it was still early days.
"I have no doubt that in the years to come we will start seeing differences as a result of this."
Internationally there had been great success and some had progressed their programmes to include first-time offenders, he said.
Data provided by Dräger Interlock XT showed their devices recorded more than 2500 positive breath samples when starting a vehicle since July 1 last year.
WHAT IS AN ALCOHOL INTERLOCK DEVICE?
An alcohol interlock sentence is mandatory for serious and recidivist offenders.
After a disqualification period offending drivers can apply for an alcohol interlock license which allows them to drive while using the device.
The breath testing device is hard wired into a vehicle's ignition.
Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must blow into the device and return a clear reading. Random samples must also be provided while driving.
Each month the device requires servicing in which its data history of violations is downloaded.
Violations include any attempt to tamper with the device.
To exit the programme drivers must be violation-free in the last 6-months or violation-free in the last three months and have completed a drug and alcohol assessment.
The two NZTA approved providers of alcohol interlocks are Dräger New Zealand Ltd and Smart Start Interlocks.
Interlocks typically cost between $2500 to $3100 for a year's sentence which includes driver licensing fees, interlock installation and removal fees, and monthly rental costs.