The avoidable costs of alcohol abuse in Australia and the potential benefits of effective policies to reduce the social costs of alcohol
6.2 Alcohol ignition locks
An anti-drink-driving intervention which is being implemented in several European countries is the alcohol ignition lock. The purpose of this device is to prevent convicted drink driving offenders from driving while impaired, by the use of ignition interlocks. To be able to operate a vehicle fitted with the device, the driver must first provide a breath specimen below the maximum permissible BAC. Random retests are used to prevent circumvention of the device (for example, by other people blowing into the mouthpiece). Alcolock programs are being implemented in Belgium, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
Anderson and Baumberg (2006) provide details of the practical implementation of the alcolock programs and of evaluation results.
A review of eight studies of interlock programs which were conducted under the authority of a local court or motor vehicle department found them to be more effective than licence suspension in preventing recidivism among alcohol impaired drivers. However, seven of the studies found that, once the interlock is removed, offenders have the same recidivism rate as suspended offenders.
It was not possible in the present study to place a social cost value on the benefits of alcolocks. Anderson and Baumberg (2006) categorise alcohol locks as being “relatively high cost to implement and maintain”, although their European estimates indicate benefits much higher than their costs. We conclude that there is a plausible case for further consideration of this intervention, even though we are not able to estimate the value of the social benefits which would accrue to the Australian community.
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