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Car Interlock Device – Definition And Overview

25 August, 2023

driving after giving a car breathalyser test

A car interlock device is an alcohol-testing equipment attached to a vehicle’s ignition system. It requires the driver to blow into it to start the car’s engine. Moreover, the person must have zero breath alcohol level; otherwise, it will lock the engine after several failed attempts. It is a mandatory requirement for people with high-range drink driving convictions. In Australia, it is enforced as part of road safety efforts. Individuals must complete the program without incurring additional offences.

Drink driving is a serious problem worldwide. Excessive alcohol consumption can affect the person’s sensory and motor functions. It often leads to impaired driving ability, which may cause road accidents and severe injuries. Therefore, Australian laws impose heavy penalties to lessen the adverse impacts of intoxicated driving. This article will focus on the purpose of interlock devices, individuals who require them, and cost considerations.

What Is A Car Interlock Device

A car interlock, also known as an ignition interlock device (IID), is an instrument installed in the vehicle. It is similar to a portable breathalyser that measures Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). This prevents the engine from starting if the driver has consumed alcohol. The main purpose of a car interlock device is to deter dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol.

The device has a mouthpiece connected to the vehicle’s ignition system. It utilises fuel cell sensor technology to measure the BAC. Some devices have a photo verification to ensure the right person is taking the breath test. If the breath alcohol is zero, the car will start as usual. It can also record the number of failed attempts, which may have further consequences.

Individuals must send their vehicles for monthly servicing to ensure the reliability of the devices. Moreover, locked vehicles require a code to allow the person to drive the car for a limited period. Then, it requires a fee to reset the device at the service centre. This would entail additional costs.

How It Works

  • The device connects to a vehicle’s ignition system. It requires a zero BAC to start the car.
  • A driver blows into it before turning on the key. It is advisable to blow for six seconds or longer to ensure an adequate breath sample.
  • The sensors undergo an electrochemical reaction process when it comes in contact with alcohol in the breath.
  • If the BAC is zero, it allows the engine to start. If it detects alcohol, the driver must wait several minutes before attempting to start again.
  • The device may also require a random breath test while driving to ensure no additional alcohol is taken.

A gavel and block set

Why Some People Require A Car Interlock Device

A car interlock device is imposed for people convicted of high-range drink driving. It means a person is operating a vehicle with a BAC reading of 0.14% for the first offence. It also includes subsequent offences in the lower ranges. Thus, the court orders an alcohol interlock program to ensure individuals separate drinking from driving.

The court mandates an alcohol interlock device installation for individuals who have shown a disregard for the law and the safety of themselves and others. Another reason is if the person has a history of alcohol abuse or addiction. These individuals may have struggled with maintaining sobriety in the past. Hence, vehicles with alcohol interlock device is an added layer of accountability.

The person may apply for an interlock condition to allow them to drive under a limited license. The program may last at least three months, provided all conditions are met. This includes demonstrating abstinence or no alcohol must be detected during the duration. However, the court can make an interlock exemption order if a person has a medical condition preventing them from providing a sufficient breath sample.

Alcohol Interlock Program in Australian States And Territories

The alcohol interlock conditions vary between states and territories. In Australian Capital TerritoryNew South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, the person may get an interlock order if the BAC is 0.15% or higher.

In Victoria, a person may get an interlock order if driving with a 0.07% BAC or higher. Additionally, Western Australia and Northern Territory have a minimum of 0.08% BAC to get an interlock order. Additional conditions include driving with any BAC range if the alcohol legal limit is zero. Likewise, the court may impose the program for drivers who have failed to provide a breath or blood sample for analysis.

No sign to a person opening a bottle of alcohol in the driver seat

Car Interlock Device Cost

The cost of the car interlock device will vary by state and the fees of the interlock service provider. It is a user-pay program where the participant will shoulder the expenses. On average, the total estimated costs will reach $2200 to $2500 per year. It includes installation and a one-time payment upon issuance of the interlock license. The installation fee will depend on the vehicle type, service provider, and state laws.

Participants must also pay the monthly leasing fee, including monthly scheduled service and recalibration. Some States, like Victoria, include a government fee for running the alcohol interlock program. It is part of the leasing fee, which starts from $160 per month.

The alcohol interlock condition requires monthly servicing. Failure to take the motor vehicle on schedule will incur penalties. Additionally, unscheduled services like lockout assistance start from $50. Lastly, the participant pays the removal fee of $100 or more at the end of the interlock period. Some agencies provide financial assistance for those experiencing hardships.

Factors Contributing To Overall Cost

To summarise, several factors can add to the overall cost of an alcohol interlock program. These include the installation fee, leasing fee, and government fees. The device also requires monthly recalibration with added costs for unscheduled services and temporary unlock codes. This depends on the state or territory ordering the interlock installation.

Additional payments would include the fee for issuance of a driver’s license, mandatory counselling sessions, and extra features (camera, GPS). The longer the interlock period, the higher the cost will be. Therefore, it is important to understand all the expenses that come with the program.

Conclusion

A car interlock device is a measure to restrict high-risk drivers or habitual offenders from driving under the influence of alcohol. It is a device installed in the vehicle that requires a breath specimen to start the engine. Hence, a person must have a zero BAC to drive. It is mandated for individuals convicted of drink driving, where they must use the interlock for a certain period of time with no additional violations.

The total cost of the device can reach up to $2,500 per year. Thus, it can be challenging for some people to pay the fees. However, they may apply for financial assistance to lower their payments. Furthermore, various factors can affect the costs, including local laws, disqualification periods, and service fees. To help avoid drink driving offences, many use a personal breathalyser, like BACtrack, to monitor their BAC levels.

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