The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has published a set of ‘practical guidelines’ for government departments thinking of introducing an alcohol interlock programme for drink-drive offenders in their country.
Alcohol interlocks are automatic control systems which require the driver to blow into an in-car breathalyser before starting the ignition.
ETSC says that across Europe there is a group of ‘hard core drink driving offenders that seem unwilling or unable to change their behaviour’, despite the use of traditional interventions such as awareness campaigns, fines and driving bans.
This group accounts for 10% of all drink driving offenders who are involved in two thirds of all alcohol-involved crashes across Europe, according to ETSC.
For these drivers, ETSC says, the introduction of an alcohol interlock programme seems to be an effective measure. The Council points to studies which show that alcohol interlocks, combined with a rehabilitation programme, cut reoffending rates both during and after the device has been installed.
The guidelines are based on analysis of interlock programmes currently in use in countries across the EU including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.
The guidelines say an alcohol interlock programme should not be limited to just the interlock device itself, but rather a ‘coordinated set of activities designed to minimise the possibility that programme participants drive after drinking’.
With regard to rehabilitation, the guidelines advocate a medical/psychological assessment at the outset, followed by continuous monitoring throughout the programme. The guidelines say the frequency of attempts to start the vehicle after drinking ‘serves as an indication that the desired behavioural intentions are not yet present’ in the driver.
Strong enforcement, including the perceived chance of offenders being breathalysed or having their driving licence checked, is described as a ‘key requirement’ for a successful alcohol interlock programme. If the chance of a driving licence check is low, offenders may choose to drive without a licence instead of participating in an interlock programme.
Finally, the guidelines suggest the evaluation should look at both short and long-term effects, over an evaluation period of at least five years.
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