Alcohol Interlock – How It Works
15 September, 2023
An alcohol interlock is an automated control system that prevents a vehicle from starting without a breath test. It is a device connected to a car’s ignition that requires a breath sample. A person blows through a mouthpiece to determine the breath alcohol content. If the device detects alcohol, the engine will not start. However, if it does not detect alcohol, the person can drive. This procedure is a preventive measure to keep individuals from drink driving.
Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is one of the leading causes of road accidents and injuries. Hence, law enforcement units implement roadside breath testing to determine drivers with a high alcohol level. People with repeat offences may face an interlock order to prevent them from driving while intoxicated. In this article, we will delve into how ignition interlock devices work, their purpose, and the benefits of the program.
What is an Alcohol Interlock Device?
An alcohol interlock is an electronic breath-testing device fitted to a car’s engine to prevent the person from driving after consuming alcohol. It is a preventative measure that aims to reduce the number of drink driving incidents. A certified interlock provider installs the device to a person convicted of multiple DUIs.
The device has a processor and a breath sensor to measure the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of a person. It is the percentage of alcohol in the system, indicating the severity of impairment. When a person consumes alcohol, it gets absorbed into the bloodstream and is exhaled through the breath. The device detects alcohol and prevents the vehicle from starting.
Individuals with an interlock order must complete the program for a certain period of time without committing additional offences. Once they prove they can drive without consuming alcohol, the interlock condition is lifted, and the device is removed from the car. In addition, a person with an interlock license must not drive another vehicle.
Purpose of the Device
- The main purpose of ignition interlock devices is to prevent drink driving and its associated risks.
- It serves as a breathalyser to test a person’s BAC before allowing them to drive.
- It monitors the drinking and driving behaviour of a person under probation.
- The device helps ensure the safety of both the driver and others on the road.
- It allows individuals to drive under a limited license.
- It acts as a deterrent for excessive alcohol consumption.
- The device aims to separate drinking from driving. It can also help monitor those with alcohol use disorder from relapsing.
How Alcohol Interlock Devices Work
An alcohol interlock device works similarly to a portable breathalyser but with additional functions. The first step in using the interlock is for the driver to blow into a tube or mouthpiece. The device then analyses the breath sample to measure the BAC. If it detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start. It will also display a warning signal.
If there is no alcohol, the individual can start the vehicle and drive. During the journey, the person must provide additional breath samples at random intervals. It aims to ensure that no alcohol is taken after the initial test. A failed retest may activate the car’s alarm system. It will not stop the car, but it is important to pull over and turn off the ignition.
The interlock device records all failed attempts as well as missed retests. During the monthly servicing and calibration, the interlock service provider downloads a report of the breath tests. Then, they submit the report to the court or supervising agency.
Installation Cost and Operation of the Device
The charges for installation of the device vary depending on the interlock provider and vehicle types. On average, it can range from $1,500 to 2,500, which includes the cost of the device itself and the service fee. Aside from the initial cost, there is a lease fee of $160 to 190 per month.
The recurring fee may include calibration, download of report, and protection plan. Service centres also charged additional fees for temporary lockouts due to failed tests, transfer fees, and removal fees. However, some agencies provide financial assistance to eligible individuals with limited resources.
Benefits of Alcohol Interlock Programs
The mandatory alcohol interlock programs offer several benefits for those who have been charged with a DUI. Firstly, it is an alternative to license suspension and helps individuals avoid the legal consequences of a DUI conviction. It also allows them to drive legally while under probation without affecting their employment and other daily activities.
Secondly, the program can reduce the rate of accidents and fatalities related to drink driving offences. It helps minimise the incidence of dangerous driving due to the additional measure of using an in-car breathalyser. As a result, it helps to change the behaviour of drunk drivers by making them more accountable for their actions.
Lastly, the program raises awareness about the risks of impaired driving. It also helps to monitor compliance for individuals who are supposed to be abstaining from alcohol, including those with alcohol use disorder. Overall, it promotes public safety by encouraging people to be aware of their intoxication level before driving. Therefore, individuals can take appropriate steps to remain sober.
Who is Eligible to Participate
The alcohol ignition interlock program applies to individuals convicted of high-risk drink driving offences. It involves having a certain BAC limit or failing to provide a breath or blood specimen during a roadside screening. This includes first-time and repeat offenders, depending on the regulations of each state or territory.
The program participants face a minimum period of six months to one year. During this time, the person must not incur further offences or violations. Some states also require completing an Alcohol Behaviour Change Program. At the mandatory interlock period, the individual may regain full license or driving privileges.
The alcohol interlock device is a mechanism installed in a vehicle to prevent the individual from driving while under impairment. It is a safety measure to reduce road accidents, injuries, and fatalities and promote public safety. The program is mandatory for individuals with repeat high-risk drink driving offences. It allows them to operate a vehicle under a limited license until they can prove to remain sober for a continuous period with no breach recorded.
To use the interlock, the driver submits a breath specimen by blowing on the mouthpiece. Then, the device analyses the exhaled breath to determine the BAC. If the breath is clear, the vehicle will start immediately. However, the car remains stationary if the interlock detects trace amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, it records the test results for reporting to relevant authorities. Therefore, individuals must ensure to remain sober while operating a vehicle.