Money and Shame Lead Drunk Drivers to Refuse Alcohol Interlock System

Losing one’s driving licence is an annoyance, and convicted drunk drivers report that it negatively affects their health, work life, and family life. Even so, two-thirds refuse the option of applying for a licence that is conditional on using an alcohol interlock during the probationary period. Moreover, few regret their decision. This was revealed in a study currently underway at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI).

Person standing with car key next to car.

Photo: Thinkstock

Since 1 January 2012, drunk drivers who are nationally registered in Sweden can apply for an alcohol interlock so that they can obtain a conditional driving licence during their probationary period. If the application is approved, they can then continue to drive in Sweden. In addition to having an alcohol interlock installed, they must also regularly prove that they are staying drug-free.

“Depending on the length of the probationary period – one or two years – installing and servicing an alcohol interlock, visiting the doctor regularly, and specimen collecting will cost between 20,000 and 40,000 Swedish kronor (approximately EUR 2000–4000), according to the Swedish Transport Agency. The person in question must pay those costs themselves”, reports VTI researcher Åsa Forsman.

Afraid of being viewed as substance abusers

Responsibility for disseminating information about the option of applying for an alcohol interlock after driving drunk rests primarily with the Swedish Transport Agency. The police can also provide such information, and the study shows that the information dissemination process is considered adequate, although certain elements could be improved.

“The primary reason why people actively refuse the alcohol interlock system is the cost. The second big reason is their reluctance to incur the shame of being stamped with an alcohol interlock. They are quite simply afraid of being viewed as alcoholics”, says analyst Susanne Gustafsson, who was responsible for questionnaires for and interviews with individuals who opted out of using an alcohol interlock.

Negatively affects friends and relatives

Most people who refrain from applying for an alcohol interlock are happy with their decision in hindsight. According to the study, only 15% regret their decision.

“However, this does not mean that the experience of being without a driving licence is pain-free. Nearly half found that they could not manage well, and that the loss of their driving licence has negatively affected their friends and relatives, because the drivers became more dependent on them”, says Gustafsson.

The results were presented at Transportforum and are part of a larger study that will be ongoing at VTI through 2017. The study is being conducted at the behest of the Swedish Transport Agency, and is intended to assess the effects of the alcohol interlock system.

Åsa Forsman Contact:
Åsa Forsman
VTI, Sweden

This article is a report from the VTI conference Transportforum 2016. You find more information about the conference here (in Swedish).

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