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Tag: Ignition Interlock

benefits of ignition interlocksThe trend for states to adopt ignition interlocks for drunk driving offenses is on the rise. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Currently 29 states mandate the devices for all such offenses, including first offenses. What was once thought to be a remedy for hard-core repeat offenders is now known to be a sensible measure to ensure that all offenders are sober behind the wheel. The enforced interlock period leads to a reduction in DUI recidivism.

But some people don’t realize that there are more benefits to the devices beyond the obvious one of halting a drunk driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has outlined the benefits of ignition interlocks for offending drivers, other motorists and society as a whole:

  • Offenders Keeps Their Legal Driving Status. Because offenders can still drive, they can maintain their jobs, get their kids to school, drive to counseling or substance abuse treatment sessions. In areas where public transportation is not abundant, this can mean the difference between success and failure of the program.
  • Families Approve of Ignition Interlocks. Not surprisingly, a UK study found that the families of offenders who use the devices approved of them. The interlocks reassured them that their loved one was safe on the road. The respondents also reported that the devices had a positive effect on the offender’s drinking habits.
  • Interlocks Help Predict Future Behavior. As it turns out, how an offender handles his or her ignition interlock breath tests is a good predictor of whether or not that person will be back in court. Those who did well with the interlock generally did well afterwards, and those who consistently failed tests had higher rates of recidivism. This means that the data from ignition interlocks, which is downloaded and reviewed by authorities regularly, is useful in determining whether full driving privileges should be restored. This practice, called compliance-based removal, is in place in a number of states.
  • Interlocks are Cost-Effective. Generally an interlock costs $2 to $3 per day, less than a drink at a bar. The cost is borne by the offender, not the state. Compared to incarceration, ignition interlocks are a bargain, and one with better results overall.

Of course, one of the main benefits of ignition interlocks will always be their ability to keep a drunk driver off the road. But legislators should not lose sight of the other advantages that the devices bring to the table, advantages which lead to safer roads and a second chance at a sober and responsible life.

ignition interlocks keep 2.3 million from driving drunkImagine if every person in Phoenix, Tucson and Scottsdale took to the road drunk — 2.3 million people, each under the influence of alcohol. It would be a pretty horrific scenario.

It isn’t going to happen, but it almost happened, in a way, in slow motion. Over the past 10 years 2.3 million people tried to start their cars and trucks, and were stopped because their ignition interlock kept the ignition off. The device wouldn’t let them drive under the influence.

Ignition interlocks, or car breathalyzers, prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

2.3 million is a lot of people – the entire population of the aforementioned three cities. They were spread out over 50 states and 10 years, so you don’t have to worry about swerving cars knocking over the Barry Goldwater Memorial or clipping the pillars of the Gammage Auditorium.

But it’s an enormous number of drunk drivers, many of whom would have done damage to themselves or other people. The only line of defense for society was the ignition interlock, and it worked. The data is revealed in a new report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The idea of totaling up all the successful interventions by the device is to point up the effectiveness of ignition interlocks in saving lives. The widespread problem of drunk driving in America has generated a lot of debate but few solutions that work. Interlocks are a proven solution, most effective when mandated for all DUI offenses, including first offenses.

MADD promotes five measures to combat drunk driving:

  • Ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenderse
  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • ALR (Administrative License Revocation) for all offenders immediately upon arrest
  • Child endangerment laws, imposing more severe punishments on drunk drivers who have a minor as a passenger
  • No refusal laws, which impose penalties for anyone refusing a breath test

More than twenty states have yet to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. Is it important that they do? Think of those 2.3 million instances of drunk driving that never happened, and how many more might not happen if those interlocks are in place. We could be looking at the population of LA or New York in a few years.

That’s a lot of people. Let’s help them not drive drunk, all right?

woman tries to bypass an ignition interlockIt never ends well, but some people try it anyway.

After an Arizona DUI, an ignition interlock device is mandatory. Most people get with the program and drive responsibly, but a few think they can bypass an ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

A woman in Phoenix has been charged with an attempt to bypass an ignition interlock device in the most reckless way possible: having a child blow into the interlock.

With a blood alcohol concentration of .17 – twice the legal limit – Kimberly Copeland drove with three children in the car. That in itself constitutes child endangerment, a Class 6 felony. In Arizona, if you drive while impaired with a passenger under 15 years old, you could face a number of punishments:

  • One year minimum in prison
  • Large fines in addition to standard DUI fines
  • Long term license revocation
  • Mandatory ignition interlock

The catch-22 here is that the perpetrator already had an interlock. This fact might lead some to conclude that interlock devices don’t work. But there is proof that they do, most recently from a well-publicized Idaho AAA study. We also know that people reckless enough to endanger their children are rare. Moreover, as people who would resort to this tend to have serious alcohol dependency issues. They stand out on the road, get picked up, and find themselves back in court before long – which is exactly what has happened in this case.

Most offenders who go through an ignition interlock program do not reoffend. Some do reoffend after the interlock is removed, and they find themselves back on the device for a longer period. That’s how the devices protect the public and greatly reduce the danger of drunk driving on the roads.

The few extreme offenders who endanger children in an effort to cheat their interlock eventually find themselves in prison. All in all, the technology is responsible for saving thousands of lives each year – including the lives of children. Extreme offenders, too, can benefit from the restraint of an interlock, when it is combined with a well-monitored program of substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation.

Arizona Ignition Interlock licenseIf you have an Arizona DUI, one of the requirements for having your driving privileges reinstated is getting an Arizona ignition interlock – a device which prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. You have 30 days to have the device installed.

The process for getting the device isn’t hard. You need to go to a provider, have them put in the device, spend fifteen minutes or so making sure you can use it correctly, and then come back to have the device calibrated at regular intervals.

Yet some people try to evade the Arizona Ignition Interlock requirement. They go on driving, uninsured and in defiance of the law, rather than get their interlock installed.

It’s a bad idea.

When your driving privileges are reinstated you are given a replacement driver’s license which has the words “Ignition Interlock” on it. If you are stopped for any reason, the officer checking your license will see that you should have the device installed.

What happens then? It’s a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by license suspension and a possible additional year of ignition interlock requirement that you would have been able to avoid.

After a DUI, installing and using an ignition interlock is the path to driving privileges and eventually a clean record. The wise choice is to take that path, follow the law, and drive in Arizona legally and safely.

windshield washer fluid can fool ignition interlockIf you’ve had an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle, you’re dealing with factors that you never had to think about before. Delivering a breath sample on a regular basis while driving isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of practice and forethought, and if you’re not careful, you could run into snags.

One snag is the presence of alcohol in unintended places. Your interlock device is designed to detect alcohol in the air, and it does that well. Unfortunately, alcohol can be present in other things besides beer and wine. When you were trained to use your interlock you were told about rinsing out your mouth – some food particles can ferment and actually make small amounts of alcohol, which can be detected by your interlock.

Windshield Washer Fluid: Yes, It’s Alcohol

One trap that can spring on unsuspecting interlock users happens when they wash their windshields with the automatic washers. The fluid used in car windshield washers has solvents such as methanol and ethylene glycol in it.

Hint: anything with “–ol” on the end is an alcohol-based compound.

When the washer fluid hits the windshield, droplets can spread around and waft into the vehicle. If you are driving with the window open and you wash your windshield just before a rolling re-test, droplets could make it into the interlock mouthpiece and affect your test.

ignition interlockSound unlikely? It happens all the time.

The cure is simple. Keep windows closed if you use the window washing fluid, and don’t use more than you need to. You also might want to consider giving your windshield a wipedown when you’re not driving, so you’ll have less need of the fluid while driving.

Having an ignition interlock will always require a bit of forethought, but once you get the habits down, you can be rolling every day, safely and legally.

an ignition interlock, like a nose, detects alcoholIf you have an ignition interlock in your vehicle, your relationship to alcohol has probably changed. You know enough not to drink if you are going to drive in the near future.

Interlocks are sensitive devices – they have to be, since they’re designed to detect alcohol at a concentration of about .02 BAC, which means that there is .02 grams of alcohol in every 100 milliliters of your blood.

If there’s that little amount of alcohol in your blood, then there is even less in the breath that’s escaping from your lungs, yet the device needs to register that amount, which is okay. But problems sometimes happen if there’s alcohol from another source wafting into the interlock mouthpiece. Believe it or not, that small amount can fool the interlock into believing that you’ve been drinking.

What can trigger the ignition interlock?

  • Windshield washer fluid. If it’s cold and you defrost your window, the alcohol could cause a fail. One trick is to use vinegar and water – or use a scraper.
  • Perfume and cologne. Alcohol is a common base for these, and they can make you look bad in front of your ignition interlock. Don’t use them. That goes for aftershave too.
  • Hair spray and hair gel. Anything that dries fast does so by using alcohol as a solvent. Alcohol in one form or another is also good for getting sticky substance solvent and airborne. It’s best not to use hair spray or gel before driving.
  • Hand sanitizers.  These products are almost all alcohol-based, so if you use them before taking an interlock test, you’re almost sure to have it register in the mouthpiece.

It’s doubtful that any of these products would trigger a permanent lockout – the amounts are small. But they could cause a temporary fail, which would be an inconvenience. So why take the chance? Be careful about the personal products you use, and you’ll have no problem. Just follow your nose.

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