The Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme (MAIS) started in South Australia on 1 May 2009.
Q: Why has a MAIS been introduced in South Australia?
Drink driving remains a significant factor in fatalities and serious injuries on South Australian roads. The mandatory scheme is the newest measure aimed at drink drivers who continue to offend. A raft of initiatives have been introduced to deter drink driving behaviour, such as:
- increasing the number of breath tests being performed
- introduction of full-time mobile random breath testing
- immediate loss of licence for high level drink driving offenders.
Crash data shows the percentage of drivers and riders killed with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit has increased over the last decade. In 2008, 37% of driver and rider fatalities tested had an illegal BAC, up from a low of 22% in 1998 and higher than the 35% average over the past 5 years (2004-2008).
On average, over the same five year period (2004-2008):
- 69% of all driver and rider fatalities with a BAC above 0.05 had a BAC greater than 0.15 - that’s over three times the legal limit.
- 37% of driver and rider fatalities deemed responsible for a crash and had recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 or greater had previously been detected committing a drink driving offence on at least one prior occasion.
Q: What is the MAIS and who will be eligible?
The scheme requires drivers who commit a serious drink driving offence from 1 May 2009 to have an alcohol interlock (small breath-testing device) fitted to their vehicle for a period of time at the end of their licence disqualification. Approximately 2,700 new offenders each year will be eligible to enter the scheme.
A serious drink driving offence is defined as:
- a second or subsequent offence, within a period of 5 years, of driving with a (BAC) at or above 0.08
- driving with a BAC at or above 0.15
- driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor
- refusing to provide a sample of breath or blood for the purpose of alcohol testing.
Learn more on alcohol interlocks and how they work
Q: When will the MAIS start?
The MAIS commenced on 1 May 2009. All drivers who commit a serious drink driving offence from that date must enter the scheme at the end of his / her licence disqualification.
Q: How long does the alcohol interlock have to be fitted to a vehicle?
The Motor Vehicles Act 1959 requires that a person applying for a licence following a period of disqualification due to a conviction for a serious drink driving offence must be subject to MAIS conditions, including having an alcohol interlock fitted to their vehicle after they have served their licence disqualification period.
The conditions apply for a period which is equal to the disqualification period ordered by the Magistrates Court plus any immediate loss of licence (ILOL) suspension issued by the South Australia Police, to a maximum of 3 years. The MAIS requires the person to nominate a vehicle/s that he / she will drive for the period the conditions apply and to have an alcohol interlock device fitted to the vehicle/s. The person must not operate any other vehicles.
The licence issued to the person will be a probationary or provisional licence subject to alcohol interlock conditions. If the person is required to obtain a learner’s permit (e.g. he / she must regress under the Graduated Licensing Scheme from a P1 licence to a learner’s permit, he / she can not get the device fitted until they are eligible for a provisional licence).
A person who has never held a licence who is disqualified for a serious drink driving offence will, when they eventually obtain a driver’s licence, be issued with a licence that will be subject to MAIS conditions.
If a person is subject to the MAIS, he / she must also carry his / her licence at all times whilst driving. A driver's time on the MAIS may also be affected if he / she commit another offence resulting in a licence disqualification.
Q: Who will pay for the MAIS?
The scheme makes drivers responsible for all costs related to the interlock device, including installation and ongoing service requirements. A concession scheme for eligible concession card holders will apply.
Q: How much will it cost to have an alcohol interlock fitted to a vehicle?
All costs are paid on a user-pays basis. The actual costs will be a matter between the interlock provider and the participant.
Fees will vary depending on the period of interlock driving, the company chosen by the applicant, the type of car and whether or not they are subject to a concession. There will be an installation fee and a monthly servicing fee.
There will also be an annual administration fee of $180 payable to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.
It is anticipated that the yearly fees may be approximately $1,500 for those drivers qualifying for a concession and $2,200 for those without a concession. This equates to about $4 or $6 respectively per day, or around the price of one standard drink.
Q: What concessions are available and how are they determined?
A concession of 35% will be available to participants on low incomes.
Concessions will be available to the holders of a Centrelink Health Care and pension cards, Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Card (Extreme Disablement Adjustment, Totally and Permanently Disabled and War Widows only). This is the existing range of concession cards already recognised in South Australia.
Q: Will there be any extensions to the mandatory period?
The mandatory period may be extended if the driver has more than one incident (see below) during the last three months on the program. The program will be extended for successive periods of three months until a driver can show a clean report. This is to show that drivers have taken real steps to separate their drinking from their driving.
Q: What sorts of incidents will result in a 3 month extension?
The incidents that will trigger an extension will be specified by notice published in the Gazette. They will include a second incident of being locked out for a positive BAC reading as well as a first incident of tampering with the alcohol interlock device (such as trying to over-ride it).
Q: What happens if more than one person drives the vehicle - do they all have to the use the alcohol interlock?
Yes. Other family members must be trained on how to use the device properly and must abide by all of the scheme requirements that the person participating has to follow. Others can drive the interlock-equipped vehicle but the driver who requires the device is responsible for all activity recorded by the interlock.
The device also has a number of sophisticated features that make it difficult for an individual to provide a proper breath sample without having been properly trained by a qualified service technician. Each failed attempt to provide a breath sample is recorded and attributed to the program participant so it is in their interests to make sure that family members know how to use the device.
Q: What conditions apply to an alcohol interlock licence?
The licence conditions for drivers on the mandatory alcohol interlock scheme are:
- the person must only drive their nominated vehicle
- the nominated vehicle must have a properly functioning device that has been installed by an approved provider
- the person must not interfere with the device - that is, try to override it
- the person must carry a certificate from the provider stating that the device was working properly when last examined
- this certificate must be produced to an authorised person on demand
- the person must regularly take the vehicle to an approved provider for examination
- the person must comply with instructions for the operation of the device and the vehicle as gazetted by the Minister and any requirements in the regulations.
Q: What are the consequences for failing to comply with the alcohol interlock conditions?
Failure to comply with any of the alcohol interlock conditions will attract a maximum penalty of $2,500.
It is also an offence for a person to assist the holder of an alcohol interlock licence to operate a motor vehicle or interfere with an alcohol interlock in contravention of the conditions. The maximum penalty for this offence is also $2,500.
Q: What happens if a person chooses not to get an alcohol interlock licence and continues to drive unlicensed?
The penalty for driving unlicensed and not having served the required period of time on the scheme will be the same as the penalty for a second offence of driving without a licence ever having been held. This means a maximum penalty of $5,000 or imprisonment for one year and disqualification from holding or obtaining a licence for not less than three years.
Q: What will happen to the existing Voluntary Alcohol Interlock Scheme?
The existing Voluntary Alcohol Interlock Scheme will be phased out over a period of five years and transitional arrangements have been made for current participants so they can complete their time on the program.
Q: What happens if I committed a drink driving offence before the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme started on 1 May 2009?
A number of people already on the voluntary scheme or who committed an offence before the mandatory scheme commenced, but are not dealt with by the courts until after the commencement date, will not be affected. These people are entitled to be dealt with under the law as it stood at the time of offending.
However, to provide a certain end date for the voluntary scheme, any person who has a right to enter the voluntary scheme but has not done so by the fifth anniversary of the mandatory scheme starting will forfeit the right to be involved in the voluntary scheme and will have to serve out their disqualification in full. They will not be required to go onto the mandatory scheme.
If a person on the voluntary scheme voluntarily surrenders their licence or ceases to hold a licence for another reason, for example through disqualification, they will not be able to return to the voluntary scheme. They will have to serve out the remainder of their disqualification, with no reduction for any time spent on the voluntary scheme, before they can regain their licence. This is consistent with the present voluntary scheme where a person is not given credit for their time if they go off the scheme (because they are being allowed to drive in lieu of them serving their disqualification in full).
Q: Alcohol Interlocks and how they work What is an alcohol interlock?
An alcohol interlock is a small breath-testing device, about the size of an electric shaver, which can be fitted to a vehicle and is connected to the vehicle's ignition circuit. It measures the driver's breath alcohol level when he/she blows into it, allowing the driver to drive legally, but preventing him/her from starting or operating the vehicle after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol interlocks are "incapacitators". Any tendency to drink and drive is inhibited by the device and this will reduce the incidence of drinking and driving thereby making an important contribution to improving road safety.
The equipment is used in many countries around the world and was first introduced in South Australia in 2001 under a voluntary scheme for serious drink-drive offenders. Alcohol interlocks are also used extensively in Victoria, New South Wales and soon, in the Northern Territory.
Q: How does an alcohol interlock work?
Before starting the vehicle, the driver must blow for a few seconds into the interlock device. The device will then measure the driver's BAC. Drivers on the mandatory scheme will be required to have a zero BAC. If the driver's BAC is above this then the interlock device will not allow the driver to start the vehicle for anywhere between 5-30 minutes to prevent misuse of the device.
If the vehicle is stopped for more than around 3 minutes, the driver will need to carry out another successful breath test before re-starting. If the driver stalls the vehicle, and the vehicle is re-started immediately, it is not necessary to carry out another breath test.
In addition, the interlock requires the driver to undertake a re-test at random intervals as they drive along. This means that the driver must blow into the interlock device again. To allow the driver time to stop the vehicle and take the breath test, the interlock device provides a period of approximately 3 minutes to do this. If the driver is still below the pre-set limit, they may continue driving.
Where a driver does not present a sample, or they fail a re-test, an alarm or horn and lights will start until the vehicle is turned off, or the driver undertakes a successful re-test.
All program activity will be monitored. A built-in data logger records every incident associated with the use of the alcohol interlock. This information is provided to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles for monitoring purposes. The Registrar will write to participants who repeatedly fail the breath tests. A driver who commits more than one incident in the final 3-month period on the alcohol interlock will have an extension of the period on the device.
Q: How do I know how to use an alcohol interlock?
When the alcohol interlock is fitted to the vehicle, approved installers will provide personal, comprehensive training to participating drivers using the interlock. Training includes a demonstration and actual use of the device to be fitted in the participant's vehicle. Training of the participant's partner, spouse or other support will be provided at installation where required. Training is essential to learn how to blow in to a device as it takes a while to learn the technique.
Q: How is an alcohol interlock maintained?
Drivers must return to the installation facility to have the device calibrated and serviced at least every month. Each time the interlock is serviced, the interlock device is checked to make sure it is operating properly, and the information recorded in the interlock about the previous month's use will be downloaded.
The approved installer will also perform a visual inspection of the device and its wiring and the vehicle itself, to make sure that no tampering or circumvention has occurred during the monitoring period.
Failure to service the alcohol interlock by the required date could result in the device locking itself. Under these circumstances, the vehicle will not start until the interlock provider resets the device. The vehicle must be towed to the nearest provider, or the provider must visit the vehicle or, in emergencies, the provider may reset the device remotely. The driver is liable for all costs and will be charged a call-out fee. The provider will also notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles about the failure to have it serviced on time.
Q: Is it possible to override the alcohol interlock?
The approved installer will monitor all interlock devices at regular intervals to ensure proper operation of the device and that no tampering has occurred. There are a range of anti-circumvention features that are built into interlock devices and can include the following:
- tamper-proof seals covering all connections which are inspected at each service
- the control module being permanently connected to the vehicle to ensure full recording of events, including instances where power to the unit was interrupted which must be satisfactorily explained by the participant
- sensory mechanisms designed to reject bogus samples and ensure that only human breath which has not been filtered or otherwise disguised is accepted for analysis
- random running re-test (as mentioned above) to inhibit "curbside" assisted starts such as leaving the vehicle while alcohol is consumed and drinking while driving.
Failure to comply with any of the interlock conditions (including interfering with the alcohol interlock) will attract a maximum penalty of $2,500. It is also an offence for a person to assist the holder of an alcohol interlock licence to operate a motor vehicle or interfere with an alcohol interlock in contravention of the conditions. The maximum penalty for this offence is also $2,500.
Q: Are there any alternatives to using an interlock?
A person does not have to have an alcohol interlock fitted to their vehicle, but they will be unable to regain a driver's licence of any class until they have had the device installed in their vehicle for the required period.
If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact your local service agent or call 1300 256 900.