Cost blowout

THE state government's backflip on which drink-drivers must pay for mandatory vehicle immobilisers has cost taxpayers nearly $375,000 in six months.

The total cost of waivers and discounts given to drivers participating in the mandatory alcohol interlock program since July is nearly $600,000.

This includes waivers for drink-drivers nabbed before the program was introduced who were initially required to pay about $3000 to take part.   

However, following a backlash from legal circles and the Legislative Council, the government quietly dropped the fees for those drivers late last year. 

The amount also includes discounts given to drink-drivers with a Health Card who attract a 35 per cent reduction in the program's costs. 

There are 185 drivers in the program getting either full or partial discounts.

The program applies to repeat drink-drivers or those caught with a blood alcohol reading of 0.15 or above.

These drivers must fit an alcohol interlock to their vehicles to get their licence back.

Once it is fitted, a vehicle will not start if a driver has alcohol in the body.

When the program was announced, Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne said it would cost just $430,000 to implement.

The remainder of the 15-month program would be "borne by offenders themselves", he said.

But shortly after its introduction there was an outcry that it was unfair on drink-drivers who had already been punished.

Opponents pointed out that magistrates who dealt with these drivers at the time were unable to take the program's cost into account during sentencing.

Mr O'Byrne decided to waive the fees after an upper house committee found the program to be unfair when applied retrospectively.

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