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How Reliable Are Ignition Interlock Devices?

Sacramento residents know the dangers of drunk driving. While the legal limit of blood alcohol to operate a vehicle is below .08%, having a single drink will not disrupt the driving skills of most people. It is often hard to tell when you’re close to the line. It is in those instances when drivers are over the legal limit that are responsible for drunk driving accidents.

It’s well known that driving over the limit causes car accidents but what researchers have just reveled is how far over the level. According to recent studies, fatal car accidents associated with drunk driving show negligent drivers consistently at a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit or higher.

More than 70% of drunk driving related accidents occur with the driver at least 15% over the legal blood alcohol limit, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With these mounting statistics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator, David Strickland, is campaigning for ignition-interlock-device installation mandates for first-time offenders nationwide.

Ignition interlock devices attach to a vehicle and require the driver to blow into them. The device reads the drivers blood alcohol level and does not allow the car to start at a level over the legal limit. States choose whether they use these devices individually. Currently, 17 states have adopted laws requiring first-time D.U.I. offenders to install ignition interlocks for a given amount of time.  

When fatality statistics for 2012 were released, Congress drew its attention to the proposed ignition interlock device legislation and is now supporting it. They offer incentives to states that choose to implement the mandates. Safety advocates predict the use of these incentives and the increasing awareness of public safety will lead to more states requiring the ignition interlock devices.

It isn’t that simple, however. There are a host of problems and pitfalls associated with these devices. They often register false positives. According to Attorney Brian Simoneau , false positives reading from these devices account for at least 10 lifetime license suspensions. 

These devices use fuel cell technology, unlike police issue breathalyzers that use the much more reliable infra red technology. This plays a hand in why there are cases of false positives resulting from cough drops, mouthwash, hairspray, perfume and many other substances. 

Safety advocates across the country are saying the ignition interlock devices don’t work. They claim the efficiency of these devices is highly questionable at best. As proof, they offer findings from a California Department of Motor Vehicles study that stated, “second DUI offenders installing an IID had a 130% higher risk of a subsequent crash than suspended drivers.”

Regardless, the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, MADD, organization is also behind the imitative which will increase the yearly income of the device manufacturers by $300 million. In an effort to promote the mandatory use of ignition interlock devices they have rallied for shorter suspensions on 2nd time offenders. This may be partially due to the fact that the interlock device industry has supported the endeavors of MADD for several years.