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What if there were a way to truly prevent driving under the influence? What if society could do something other than jail time or counseling for those that drive while drunk? Is suspending a license really necessary or even effective?
Supporters of the Ignition Interlock System (IID) think they have found the answers to all of these questions.
An Ignition Interlock System is a breathalyzer based device that prevents a car from starting if its driver cannot prove that their BAC is under a pre-determined limit. It requires either a simple exhale, or a combination hum, suck and blow into the device before it can determine whether or not it is safe to drive. It also sometimes requires breath samples while driving to ensure that the driver is not drinking while driving or to simply make sure the same person that started the car is driving the car.
The device, which is also known as the breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BIID), cannot stop a moving vehicle. It can, however, set off alarms if the driver fails a rolling (test taken while operating the vehicle) test. The driver will then be forced to stop the car, turn it off to stop the alarms, and give a breath sample that is not over the limit to restart it.
For law enforcement, these devices can provided helpful information into the habits of DUI offenders. The IID provides regular logs of any failed tests. These logs can be downloaded at a later time and used to monitor the behavior of its users. It is almost the perfect solution: the offender is allowed to keep driving, while law enforcement can be certain that they are not drinking.
Ignition Interlock devices are based on fuel cell technology. This means they use an electrochemical reaction to confirm the presence of alcohol on the breath. In order to use it, the device must be professionally installed into an engine’s ignition system. Installation is generally quick (less than two hours) and does not damage the vehicle. The device is small, either fitting in the glove compartment, or sitting on the dashboard.
Drivers who have been ordered to use an IID typically have to pay all costs involved with it. The devices are leased rather than sold, and therefore the financial burden is often less than other options. For many offenders, they are able to use an Ignition Interlock Device instead of serving jail time or having their license suspended. Installations can range from $100-$200 and monthly maintenance ranges from $75 to $100.
Ignition Interlock Devices have become so popular that some people are choosing to voluntarily install them on their vehicles. Volvo, Saab and Nissan have even started to build the technology into their cars. For everyday users, it gives them the piece of mind of knowing they are not intoxicated before they operate their vehicle.
Across the country, some politicians are actually advocating that IID be mandatory on all vehicles. There are, of course, some potential problems with this thinking. Because the devices have to be set to a passable BAC, there is debate as to what that amount should be. The national level of .08 may not be satisfy states that have much lower acceptable limits. To make it further complicated, setting the standard too low will unjustly penalize drivers whose driving is not impaired.
Should the Ignition Interlock devices be reserved for drivers who have actually been guilty of drunk driving, or should they prevent drunk driving at the expense of the innocent?
Until that question is answered, states across the country have chosen to either require IID for their repeated DUI offenders, offer it as an alternative to other sentencing options, or even deter first time offenders from further mishaps.
These devices take the responsibility of preventing drunk driving out of the police officers’ hands and into the hands of a machine.
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