Lockout device forces U-turn in repeat drink driver’s life

Sam Taylor, a ‘belligerent drunkard’ who has confessed to turning his life around after a drunk driving conviction. Photo / Provided

It started with beer; a few drinks after work every day in the fast-paced world of après-ski as an after-winter snowboard instructor around the world.

It ended when he woke up in a Christchurch police cell, covered in blood and vomit and not knowing why.

By then, Sam Taylor was drinking up to half a liter of vodka a day, straight from the bottle, and driving.

It was cheap, easy to disguise, and ideal for numbing pain after a series of events, including complex and severe trauma unraveled by therapy only in recent years.

Taylor continued her spiral after her Covid-induced exit from the glamorous slopes of North America.

Sam Taylor in his heyday as a snowboard instructor, before alcohol took hold and ruined his life.  Photo / Provided
Sam Taylor in his heyday as a snowboard instructor, before alcohol took hold and ruined his life. Photo / Provided

“Not only did I lose my career, but I returned to a country that was going to go into lockdown.

“I was already in turmoil, then the world got into turmoil – so man, what a reason to drink,” the 33-year-old told Open Justice.

It was November 2020 when Taylor, now working as a welder, found himself with a second drink-driving offense after strolling through New Brighton in Christchurch a ‘belligerent drunkard’, who had been spotted driving earlier.

“I had no more reason to live and I felt that I had lost all my friends.

“One night I was hammered way too much and I was on my last legs, pretty much ready to give up on life.

“I ended up somewhere in New Brighton – my car was parked for hours, but I woke up the next morning in the cells, covered in blood and vomit, and I had no idea what had happened. “

Taylor said that was the bottom. He had four times the legal alcohol limit in his system and landed his second drunk driving conviction – the first being a decade earlier as a “young and stupid” boy in Wanaka.

He said until that night in 2020 he had not once considered the consequences of drunk driving.

“I never really thought about anyone else. It was just me and my bottle and that’s how the addiction works.

At the time, Taylor fit the profile of the driver who seriously worried our roads: the drug addict.

Director of the National Road Policing Center, Superintendent Steve Greally, told Open Justice that despite efforts focused on preventing alcohol-related traffic accidents, there was a sector of the population that remained hard to reach. , and which included people with addiction issues.

Superintendent Steve Greally.  Photo/John Borren, Bay of Plenty Times
Superintendent Steve Greally. Photo/John Borren, Bay of Plenty Times

Crash data compiled by Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) showed that in 2020 alcohol was a factor in 90 of 320 road deaths that year and 262 serious injuries.

“There are people that you just can’t reach, whether they’re in court or on other prevention or intervention measures, they’re very hard to reach.

“Or maybe they just have a particular outlook on life that most people don’t share, and those people will always find a way around the system,” Greally said.

The system he referred to was a series of prevention measures including a vehicle locking device designed to prevent people from driving while intoxicated.

Interlocks are wired into a vehicle to prevent it from starting if alcohol has been detected on the driver’s breath.

They are an option for convicting first-time offenders with very high alcohol level readings and repeat drunk drivers for whom nothing else is effective.

Taylor was among more than 11,000 New Zealanders sentenced to alcohol lockdown orders since laws regarding alcohol use came into force in 2017.

He said that while the device wasn’t simple, he gave it credit for forcing the U-turn in his life.

“The Lockdown Device is an incredible tool that has helped me rebuild a life that I had destroyed.

“It allowed me to keep moving forward. I was at a point where I was ready to accept my alcoholism and walk away from it.

“I saw it as a daily positive reminder that ‘I’m an alcoholic and therefore I don’t drink’.”

Once a person is convicted, there is a mandatory 30-day driving prohibition before applying for an alcohol interlock license.

Once acquired, the device is installed by an approved auto-electrician for a minimum of 12 months.

More than 11,000 New Zealanders have been sentenced to alcohol lockdown orders since 2017. Stock Photo / 123RF
More than 11,000 New Zealanders have been sentenced to alcohol lockdown orders since 2017. Stock Photo / 123RF

“They plug this little blower into your car, which takes about 40 minutes, and they give you a rundown of how it works.

“It’s really confusing and you have to get used to making the right noise – you don’t blow, you have to make it like a buzz.”

It was costing Taylor $130 a month in service fees, which involved uploading data indicating whether there had been any breaches.

Although a vehicle will not start without a clear breath test, the device can also activate spontaneously when a driver is mobile.

“If there’s a violation, there’s another $47 fee – you learn that quickly, but I didn’t.

“I wasn’t in the best of headspaces when I got this – I was freshly sober. The device would kick in spontaneously while I was driving down the road and I couldn’t hear it and you wouldn’t only had a four or five-a minute window to blow into it, and if you don’t, it will register a violation.”

Sam Taylor says his life is now back on track.  Photo / Provided
Sam Taylor says his life is now back on track. Photo / Provided

Taylor is now device free, but will remain on a zero alcohol license before a standard driver’s license can be issued after a minimum of three years.

He says achieving sobriety was painful and he had a few setbacks along the way because he didn’t have an end goal.

He attributes his success to the tremendous support of his family.

“Every time I fell off the wagon, my drinking got worse and worse. It got to the point where something just changed in my head and in my heart.

“I sincerely believe that I had to go through all the drinking I drank to get to the point of ‘more’.”

He said learning to understand his addiction was a saving grace.

“He’s a monster, but if you understand him, then you’ll be fine.

“If someone had stopped me at a certain point, I don’t think I would have been quite ready to let go. Everyone has to let go at their own pace.”

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