Despite the increased awareness about the negative consequences of drunk driving, every day almost 30 people die every day in the United States because of drunk driving. Most drunk drivers who are eventually pulled over have driven an average of at least 80 times before getting caught the first time. Indeed, drivers who had a BAC of 0.08% or higher and who were involved in fatal crashes were six times more likely to have had a DWI conviction on their record than drivers who had no alcohol in their system. So how can we make sure these repeat offenders stay off the road while they’re under the influence? The answer may come in the form of an ignition interlock. These devices have been shown to reduce repeat offenses and can help save lives when installed.
What Is an Ignition Interlock and How Does It Work?
An ignition interlock device keeps the engine of your car from starting if the alcohol sensing device component shows that your BAC level is above the pre-set level (usually around 0.02). It functions as a car breathalyzer of sorts and if your BAC level is too high, it locks the car’s ignition, preventing you from driving.
If you fail the test the first time, you can try again — usually after a few minutes — but if you continue to fail the test, the wait time will increase between tests.
Currently, there are around 150,000 interlock systems in use in vehicles all across the United States. They’re most commonly installed in the cars of drivers who have multiple DUI convictions, though putting them in first-time offenders’ cars could be a great preventive measure, discouraging the driver from trying it again.
How Effective Is an Interlock Device?
When interlocks are installed, they’re connected to a 70% decrease in arrest rates in regards to impaired driving and can help lower the number of repeat offenses even after the device is taken off. It can lower the percentage of repeat offenses by almost 40% compared to DUI offenders who never had an interlock installed.
If interlocks became mandatory in all cars, they’d probably be set much farther below the legal limit of 0.08 — at 0.03 or 0.04. It’s also important to note here that in many states, even if your BAC is below 0.08 and you’re pulled over, you can still be arrested and charged with a DUI.
Interlock devices are also effective because of the rolling retest feature. This makes sure that the driver doesn’t drink behind the wheel after the first breath test is done and most devices ask you to do a rolling retest five to 15 minutes after you start your car and then randomly over the course of your trip.
If you have an ignition interlock installed in your car, most states will actually require these retests as you drive. The device will beep, prompting the driver to provide a breath sample. If it senses alcohol, it won’t just stop the car, but it will prompt the driver to stop and pull over by engaging the horn and flashing lights.
What Else Should I Know About Ignition Interlocks?
If a court mandates that you need an ignition interlock device, you’ll have to pay the associated costs for paying for the device and having it installed by one of the many ignition interlock companies. You’ll be informed whether your state requires you to have it installed immediately once you’re convicted or if you get a grace period to get it installed.
The average cost for an ignition interlock device is around $70-$150 for installation costs and between $60-80 a month to monitor and calibrate the device. A handful of states have begun to require those convicted of DUI’s to install these devices in lieu of other measures and they allow you to get back on the road and back to your regularly scheduled routine safely and legally.
If you need an ignition interlock device installed, look for companies who offer affordable and reliable devices and get back to your life.