Frequently asked questions
About the NSW Alcohol Interlock Program
The Alcohol Interlock Program is a court-ordered requirement for certain types of drink-driving offenders. It is designed to tackle drink driving in NSW.
It has been in place since February 2015 for all high range and repeat offenders. From Monday 3 December 2018, the Alcohol Interlock Program will be extended to apply to all first-time, middle-range drink-driving offenders (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, but less than 0.15). It will also apply to first time offenders convicted of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
If an offender is convicted of one of these offences, the Court is required to make an ‘interlock order’ which outlines how long the offender is disqualified, and then how long they must participate in the program. Exemptions from the program can be made by the Court in limited circumstances.
Participants in the program are required to have devices that connect to the ignition of a vehicle and prevent it from starting if the driver cannot pass an alcohol breath test. Interlock licence holders are required to have a zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when driving.
The interlock also includes a camera and takes a photograph of the person providing the breath sample to reduce the risk of a driver circumventing the program.
Data from the device, including any attempts to drink drive and photographs, are monitored by Roads and Maritime Services.
Research indicates interlock programs reduce drink driving re-offending by over 60 per cent and influences both first-time and repeat offenders.
Analysis of the Victorian interlock program for repeat offenders, which has been in place longer than the NSW program, was published in late 2016. It found that during the alcohol interlock period, there was an 81 per cent reduction in drink-driving offences in the group of offenders with an interlock compared to a 10 per cent reduction in a comparison group without an interlock.
With strong results in other jurisdictions, the NSW Government committed, as part of Road Safety Plan 2021, to expand the program in NSW to include more offenders to better tackle alcohol-related trauma on NSW roads.
If a driver is convicted of a ‘mandatory interlock offence’, the Court is required to make either an interlock order, or (in limited circumstances) may make an interlock exemption order.
If an interlock order is made, drivers must complete their interlock period.
Offenders who do not complete the requirements of the interlock order issued by the Court are disqualified from holding a driver licence (other than an interlock licence or learner licence) for at least 5 years.
Interlocks strike an important balance by allowing offenders to return to driving, while making sure all road users are protected from drink-driving.
While interlocks are a tough requirement (with strict conditions and costs for participants) they allow offenders to learn how to separate their drinking from driving, and to resume driving for work or family, provided they have an interlock in place.
Changes to the Alcohol Interlock Program
From Monday 3 December 2018, the Alcohol Interlock Program will be extended to apply to all first-time, middle-range drink-driving offenders (a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, but less than 0.15). It will also apply to first time offenders convicted of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
The program will continue to apply to all repeat and other serious drink-driving offences, which have been mandatory interlock offences since February 2015.
The change means that interlocks are now required for all drink-driving offenders in NSW, unless the offence is a lower-range first-offence.
The interlock requirement will now also be applied to middle-range and driving under the influence of alcohol first offences committed on and after Monday 3 December 2018.
If convicted, these offenders will receive an interlock order that requires them to participate in the Alcohol Interlock Program (unless the Court determines an exemption applies).
The Road Safety Plan 2021, released in February 2018, prioritises key actions over the next five years to reduce deaths and serious injuries on NSW roads. One of the priority areas for action includes strengthening penalties and enhancing enforcement to tackle drink and drug driving behaviour.
In 1980, more than 380 people were killed in alcohol related crashes in NSW. In 2017 there were 55 people killed in alcohol-related crashes on NSW roads. This is a drastic reduction (85 per cent) since the 1980’s, but more can be done.
Interlocks are a proven initiative that have been shown to cut drink-driving and reduce re-offending while they are installed in offender’s vehicles. Expanding the interlock program to include more offenders is a key step in reducing trauma on NSW roads.
There is strong community support for action to target drink and drug driving. In developing the Road Safety Plan 2021, Transport for NSW completed a representative survey of the community which showed:
- 90 per cent consider alcohol and drug testing important for road safety, and
- 84 per cent supported alcohol interlocks for drink driving offenders.
The changes to the program will not impact existing participants who have an interlock licence.
With this reform, there are up to approximately 6,500 extra offences per year which may result in an interlock order.
The actual number of people affected by the reform will depend on driver behaviour, and the number of offences detected.
Drivers who do not drink drive will not be affected by these changes.
The NSW Government is tackling alcohol-related trauma on NSW roads by coupling education and enforcement with reforms to strengthen penalties to deter unsafe driving.
NSW Police deliver ongoing random breath testing across NSW, including additional enforcement funded through the Community Road Safety Fund.
Changes to the interlock program are being introduced alongside, and will be supported by, other changes to the law.
From Monday 3 December 2018, vehicle sanctions will also be expanded to include repeat, high-risk drink-driving offenders. Drink drivers may have their number plates confiscated at the roadside or vehicle impounded by the Police. This enables Police to remove high-risk offenders from the road immediately and reduces the risk of reoffending.
From May 2019 there will also be changes to penalties for low-range, novice-range and special-range drink-driving first-time offences. This will include certain licence suspension coupled with penalty notices. Further information will be developed to support these changes in 2019.
How the Alcohol Interlock Program works
In order to participate in the program the Court must issue the offender with an alcohol interlock order. This order includes a minimum disqualification period that must be served first, before a participant can begin their interlock program.
Participants can begin to take steps to obtain an interlock licence as they complete this initial ‘upfront’ minimum disqualification period.
To enrol in the program a participant must undertake a number of steps, including installing an interlock device and visiting their doctor. To find out what these steps are view the Getting Started fact sheet.
No, the interlock devices are installed by one of three accredited interlock service providers in NSW. These providers are also responsible for the ongoing servicing of the devices. Costs associated with participation in the scheme must be paid to the provider by the participant.
Costs are estimated to be around $2,200 to $2,500 a year (full fee). This includes costs for installing, servicing and removing your interlock device. Participants are required to pay all costs of being involved in the Alcohol Interlock Program.
Yes. The program offers a concession rate of 35 per cent off the full cost of the interlock to full-rate pension recipients, low income Health Care Card holders and Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Card holders. To get a concession rate, participants need to provide their concession card details directly to their provider.
A Severe Financial Hardship scheme is also in place to provide extra financial assistance (up to 100 per cent of standard program fees) to participants in need. Participants need to apply for assistance, and be assessed for eligibility. This assessment is done by the Salvation Army on behalf of Roads and Maritime. The Salvation Army can be contacted directly on 1300 371 288 to arrange an assessment.
The interlock period varies depending on the type of offence.
The minimum period that the Court may order is 12 months, depending on the type of offence. However if a participant fails to meet the programs exit criteria they may be required to stay on the program longer. More information on exit criteria can be found in the Participant Guide.
Yes, interlocks can be installed into any vehicle type, including cars, heavy vehicles and motorcycles. They are installed by one of four accredited interlock service providers in NSW.
It is an offence to drive without an interlock device when you are on an interlock licence.
A zero alcohol limit applies to interlock drivers. If an alternative vehicle is being driven because a driver has been drinking, they may also be charged with a drink-driving offence, and further penalties and licence disqualification may apply.
If the interlock period is not completed, the offender remains disqualified for a period of at least 5 years from the date of their conviction. Driving whilst disqualified is a serious offence.
No. It is a serious offence for another person to assist a driver to start a vehicle with an interlock (for example, by providing a breath sample to start the vehicle).
Interlock devices also have built-in features, including a camera, to reduce this risk. A photograph is taken of the driver who completes the breath test. The device also requires random tests during a drive, in addition to the initial test to start the vehicle.
Interlock licence holders have a zero alcohol limit. If caught drink driving, they can be charged and face additional penalties.
No, participation in the program follows a period of licence disqualification. This means that an offender must complete an upfront disqualification period before they are eligible to participate in the program.
The interlock program allows offenders to get their licence back, but only under strict conditions and with an interlock installed.
Exemptions are available but only in limited circumstances. An exemption can only be made by a Court at sentencing. Roads and Maritime Services cannot exempt an offender at a later date.
If a person is exempted from the interlock program, significant disqualification periods apply. A drink driving education program (Sober Driver Program) must also be completed.
Roads and Maritime Services monitor data from the interlock during the whole interlock period and a participant may be sent warning letters or referrals to the doctor if the device records attempts to drink and drive.
In the last six months of the interlock period, participants must demonstrate that they can separate drinking and driving before they will be eligible to hold a licence without an interlock condition.
Failing breath tests (even at a low level) or tampering with the device may result in not meeting the performance requirements.
If a participant does not meet these requirements they will be required to go to the doctor for an assessment of their fitness to drive. On the basis of the doctor’s advice, and their interlock program performance, their interlock period may be extended by 6 months.
If they do not complete their medical assessment, their interlock licence will be suspended and they will not be permitted to drive at all.
Alcohol interlock providers have confirmed they can meet increased demand as part of the expanded program.
The legislation does not allow for exemptions to be made on the basis of remoteness. Interlock service providers are capable of delivering interlock services to remote and regional offenders.
Generally, participants need to return to a provider to have the interlock serviced every 60 days. However, for offenders in remote NSW servicing can be scheduled every 90 days to reduce long distance travel.