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Ignition Interlock Device Prevents Driving While Intoxicated

Posted Sep 28 2008 2:00pm

You have to wonder why these devices aren’t on every new automobile passing through car dealerships everywhere. The premise is quite simple and effective. Before a car can be started, one must blow into a breathalyzer type device successfully proving they are not intoxicated before the ignition will unlock.


Some may think this is akin to killing mosquitoes with hand grenades, but when two thirds of the drivers on the road between midnight and 4:00 am have been drinking it becomes startling clear why these devices are necessary.


We are all literally risking our lives when we are on the roads what with careless driving in general. It’s dangerous enough out there already, but throw drunk drivers into the equation and it’s almost enough to make you stay home!


These devices, or at least a version of it, are currently used by the courts in some jurisdictions as a restraint against re-offending after a drunk driver has been charged. This a good start, but more needs to be done.


How IIDs work

When the driver enters the vehicle, the device prompts them for a breath sample. Breath patterns are pre-programmed to avoid mechanical tampering and some devices measure breath temperature in an effort to foil false air induction, say through an air filled balloon or air pump.


The IID is programmed for a Breath alcohol concentration level usually set by the state. Wisconsin for example uses 0.02% [Brac] set point. When a Brac level is blown at or over the set point the car ignition is locked preventing the driver from starting the car. The device displays a pass, fail, or inadequate sample reading.



Passing allows the car to be started immediately. Three successive failures will lock the ignition. The inadequate sample reading is caused by not providing enough air, stopping in the middle of the process, or failing to blow/suck or hum in the correct manner. If an inadequate sample is drawn, the device prompts you to try two more additional times.


The driver has three chances to provide a valid sample. If he fails to do so, the IID records a violations reset, requiring the driver to return the unit to the service provider within seven days or risk permanent lockout. When the driver successfully provides a sample below the set point, the car can start. Five minutes after ignition and then randomly in 5-30 minutes increments, the IID will request additional breath samples, called rolling retests. Rolling retests are designed to remove the possibility of a sober friend from assisting an intoxicated driver and in any event the drunk driver cannot get far.


Three consecutive refusals to provide a rolling retest or three breath tests over the set point will start the horn honking and emergency lights flashing. This less than subtle display continues until the driver turns off the ignition which immobilizes the car for 15 minutes. This event, or any attempt to tamper with or subvert the IID, is recorded in the IID as a violations reset, requiring the driver to bring the IID in for service.


Why IIDs are a good idea

Although these devices are mainly used to keep the recidivist or frequently offending drunk driver off the roads, they should be considered mandatory on all vehicles. Cost may be a deterrent since each device has a price tag of about $1000, and manufacturers would undoubtedly pass this cost on to the consumer. An alcohol tax is one consideration to pay for these IID’s and considering the average drunk driver spends about $1500 per year at the local tavern, this may be an option.


As for the rest of the social drinkers in the pubs across the country forced to pay this levy, they should contemplate how much safer their drive home would be.


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