Alcoholism & Addiction

Laws Toward Ignition Interlocking Devices Vary by State

Urging a person who abuses alcohol to avoid driving, or taking their keys – as previous national anti-drunk driving campaigns would suggest – may pale in effectiveness compared to technological advancements that are keeping drivers who drink off the road. Ignition interlocking devices are shown in research studies to reduce drunk driving, and are now required in some states for anyone with a DUI offense, although laws regarding their use continue to vary.

An ignition interlocking device can be described as a small breathalyzer test that is installed into a vehicle. In order for the vehicle to start, the driver must provide a sample of their breath. If alcohol is detected, typically between .02 and .04 percent, the vehicle will not start. In essence, it is “locked up.” If a breath sample is given with non-detectable amounts of alcohol, the vehicle can be started, but many interlocking devices also require the driver to take random breath tests while they are operating the car.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that ignition interlocking devices are effective at reducing alcohol-related traffic violations by as much as 64 percent. Studies by the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety also cite the effectiveness of the machines, stating that they may cut repeated drunk driving incidents by as much as 95 percent.

If during operation, a driver’s level of alcohol on the breath rises enough to be detected by the device, an alarm will sound. The car’s lights may flash and horn blare until the car is stopped and shut off. If a driver decides not to give a breath sample, a message is stored and can be logged at 30 or 60-day periods, or whenever the device is calibrated. If violations are found on the vehicle’s log, additional punishments and fines can be rendered to the driver.

The fee for an ignition interlock device can vary, but may range from $65 to $100 monthly. A set up fee may also apply, as well as maintenance fees and those associated with logging and documenting the driver’s activities. Most DUI offenders must pay their own installation and ongoing expenses. The machines can also detect and report attempts to disable they system, and these attempts are logged with the driver’s motor vehicle department.

The length of time a driver must use an interlocking device depends on the state in which the DUI occurred, if the offender is a repeat drunk driver, and the severity of the crime. In some states, the use of an ignition interlocking device means an offender is allowed to get to work or school, instead of having a revoked license altogether. All but three states – South Dakota, Vermont and Alabama – use the devices for drunk drivers. Some mandate its installation for any DUI offense; others require it for offenders with repeated drunk driving arrests.

Though laws for ignition interlocking devices differ from state to state, and the devices can be utilized for varying situations involving DUI cases, the technology continues to show promise at reducing injuries and fatalities associated with drunk driving.

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