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Alcohol Interlock Device: Definition, How It Works, And Its Implementation

09 February, 2024

A prohibition sign on top of a person opening an alcoholic beverage while driving

Drink driving is a prevalent issue worldwide. One of the measures to monitor and restrict the use of alcohol while driving is an alcohol interlock device. It is installed in the vehicles of individuals participating in the alcohol interlock program. It measures the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and only allows the engine to start if the result is below the set limit. A certified interlock provider installs this and regularly calibrates it until the interlock participation period ends.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a leading cause of numerous accidents and fatalities. Hence, law enforcement agencies conduct roadside testing to protect road safety. Those caught with a high-range drinking offence or multiple lower offences may have their licenses suspended. They may also require mandatory counselling and education sessions. This article will present information on alcohol ignition interlock devices, how they work, and the service centres.

What is an Alcohol Interlock Device?

An alcohol interlock device is a machine installed in a motor vehicle. Its main purpose is to prevent ignition interlock program participants from driving if they are under the influence of alcohol and monitor them. Several types of ignition interlock devices come with various features to help ensure they can fulfil this purpose.

The standard model is the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID). This traditional unit uses a tube to collect the breath sample. Another type is the Vehicle Alcohol Detection System (VADS), which uses infrared spectrometry. This is an advanced equipment that provides very accurate results.

An interlock condition is a penalty imposed on individuals convicted of high-range drink driving. This can be due to being caught with a BAC level of 0.14% or higher or multiple lower-range offences. However, some may petition for an interlock exemption due to valid reasons. Generally, exemptions can be made for those who cannot afford the financial burden of an interlock program.

Importance of the Device to Address Drink Driving Offences

  • It prevents individuals with histories of drink driving offences from operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
  • Ignition interlocks serve as an effective deterrent to dangerous driving.
  • It can help reduce the risks of roadside accidents due to impairment from misusing liquor or drugs.
  • The device can provide valuable data on the liquor consumption patterns of the individual.
  • It promotes healthy and responsible intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Ignition interlocks may also help individuals to consider alternatives to driving while intoxicated, such as using public transport.
  • It helps protect the general public from possible injuries or fatalities from car crashes.

Three glasses of alcoholic beverages on top of a table

How Alcohol Interlock Device Works

An alcohol interlock device works similarly to a breathalyser. To use it, the individual operating the vehicle must undergo a breath test to check their BAC level. They should provide adequate deep lung breath specimens for accurate reports. They should also refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking at least 20 minutes before the test.

If the device measures a BAC level below the limit, then the individual may start the car. This pre-set limit may vary depending on the state. Some set it to zero, while some allow up to 0.02%. However, if the driver fails, the car will not start. Furthermore, they only have limited chances to pass the test. In cases where they lock themselves up due to multiple failed attempts, they must contact their interlock provider.

Moreover, the device will also prompt for random tests throughout the drive. This is to ensure the driver does not drink while driving. When they receive the prompt, the driver must pull over and provide the random breath samples. If they fail to do so, an alarm will ring until they conduct the test.

Features and Components of the Device

The device consists of several features and components that work to effectively restrict and monitor the driver. The key components are the breath test sensor, the control unit, and the data logger. The control unit is responsible for processing the information from the breath test. Afterwards, the data logger keeps track of the results, including missed tests.

Other features that may come with the device are a camera and GPS. The camera may take pictures or videos during the test. This verifies that the driver is the one taking the test. Meanwhile, GPS provides the option for tracking the vehicle.

Two men in a car

Implementation and Service Centres to Install an Alcohol Interlock Device

To qualify for an interlock program, the individual must apply for an interlock licence. This may require various forms and a medical consultation certificate to ensure they have undergone a medical assessment. Afterwards, they must contact a nearby alcohol interlock supplier and set an appointment for installation.

After paying the fees and completing the vehicle registration process, a technician from the interlock team will start installing the alcohol interlock device. It is usually placed on the dashboard or steering column and then connected to the existing wiring. Then, they will set the limit to the standard set by the state. Afterwards, the staff will demonstrate how to use it and provide information.

The minimum mandatory interlock period is between six months to one year. Throughout this period of time, the program participant must avoid incurring violations. A crucial part of this is regularly going to a service centre for recalibration. During this, the service centre also transfers the data from the device and sends it to the relevant court or law enforcement agency.

What to Look For in a Service Centre

There are several factors to consider when selecting a service centre for ignition interlocks. Firstly, they must ensure the interlock service provider is licensed and certified to offer the service. This ensures they meet the necessary standards for alcohol interlock services and guarantees their knowledge of the relevant regulations.

Secondly, the interlock service provider should supply high-quality electronic breath-testing devices to ensure the accuracy of each result and reduce false positives. Lastly, individuals must consider the location of the service centre and its proximity to them. Ideally, they should also offer good customer service and an organised appointment system.

Conclusion

An alcohol interlock device is a crucial machine that prevents those with drink driving charges from driving while intoxicated. It is a device that certified interlock providers install into the cars of eligible interlock program participants to monitor them. It requires the individual to pass a breath test before they can start the car. Then, it will randomly ask for tests throughout the drive to ensure they are not drinking while driving.

To have the device installed, the participant must contact a licensed and accredited service centre for ignition interlocks. Then, they must submit the necessary documentation and pay the fees. After installation, they must also return for regular calibration to ensure the device remains accurate. During this, the technician will also gather the data from the device and submit it to the relevant supervisory body. Participants must avoid incurring violations to finish their required participation period.

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