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Interlock Car: How Does It Work?

29 November, 2023

A man driving with sunglasses on with another man in the other seat

An interlock in a car is a device used to prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver does not meet the required breath conditions. This technology is instrumental in reducing alcohol-related accidents. The device works similarly to a breathalyser. The person must blow into a tube or mouthpiece and provide a breath sample for analysis. It will measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If it does not detect ethanol, then the car will start. Otherwise, the person must retest.

Dangerous driving includes driving under the influence. People face severe penalties if they are caught drink driving. The installation of interlock devices is one penalty, along with fees and jail time. Furthermore, the participant must shoulder all of the costs. These consequence aims to emphasise the importance of maintaining road safety. This article will present what a car interlock is, how it works, and the eligibility requirements for one.

What is an Interlock in a Car?

An interlock in a car refers to a safety device that prevents the vehicle from starting unless certain conditions are met. This device is designed to prevent drink driving and reduce road safety risks. Alcohol interlock devices are available for both cars and trucks. They are typically installed in the dashboard or console of a vehicle.

There are several types of alcohol interlock systems. The type of device depends on the specific requirements of the interlock program of a state or territory. It also depends on the severity of the case. These are regularly recalibrated to avoid inaccurate results.

One common type is the Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID). It is considered the standard and requires the driver to breathe into a tube. Another type is the Vehicle Alcohol Detection System (VADS). This uses advanced technology such as infrared spectrometry. Moreover, other devices take photo verification during startup and rolling to ensure the correct person is providing the sample. In addition, some interlocks have GPS for tracking.

Benefits and Purpose

  • The device prevents individuals from driving when they are under the influence of alcohol. This helps protect public safety since intoxicated drivers have an increased risk of accidents.
  • It helps minimise the risks of drink driving offences by ensuring only sober individuals can operate vehicles.
  • The purpose of these devices is to ensure that people under an interlock program will drive safely.
  • It aims to encourage drivers to seek help from health professionals for alcohol-related issues. Many programs involve educational programs and counselling.
  • It aims to track whether the program participant has completed their alcohol interlock program.

A man holding a bottle of alcohol while driving

How an Interlock in a Car Works

An interlock in a car is a safety feature that helps prevent dangerous driving of various types of vehicles. The interlock device works similarly to a portable breathalyser. To use one, the driver must provide a breath specimen. They must continuously blow into a tube or mouthpiece to provide an adequate breath sample. The device will then analyse the breath sample and measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels.

If the device does not detect alcohol, the individual may proceed with driving. However, if it does, the motor vehicle will not start. Moreover, consecutive failed results will lock the car. Throughout the drive, the device will require a sample of breath at random intervals. This helps ensure the driver does not drink liquor while driving.

A failed test during the journey may trigger the alarm system. This will continue unless the driver pulls over and turns off the car. Furthermore, the device records all failed and missed tests. The interlock service provider will gather this data during the regular recalibration schedule. They will send this report to the court or supervising agency.

Accuracy and Reliability

The accuracy and reliability of an interlock device depend on the sensors used. Many are equipped with either semiconductor or fuel cell sensors. Both can provide accurate and reliable results. However, fuel cell sensors are generally more accurate since they only react to ethanol compounds.

Regular recalibration is vital for maintaining the accuracy and reliability of the device. Moreover, drivers may take steps to prevent possible false positive results. This includes avoiding foods and products with alcohol, such as some bread, energy drinks, and mouthwash. In addition, they should wait around 15 minutes after eating or drinking before testing.

A car that crashed into a motorcycle and two police officers inspecting

Who is Eligible to Have an Interlock in a Car?

Eligibility for having an interlock in a car depends on the specific laws of the state or territory. Generally, the program participants are those convicted of high-risk drink driving offences. They must consult a health professional and undergo a medical assessment. They may provide permission to participate in the program. Afterwards, they must seek an approved interlock service provider.

Individuals under alcohol interlock conditions must apply for an interlock licence. This allows them to operate the vehicle. Generally, they can have a probationary licence after confirming their eligibility. However, the individuals must also shoulder all expenses under the program. This includes the installation cost, monthly servicing, and other service fees. Many find this requirement a heavy financial burden. Although there are affordable interlock systems, the overall interlock costs remain significant.

Moreover, individuals must ensure compliance during the duration of their program. They may face several consequences for violations. This depends on the severity and number of breaches made. Lastly, some states also require individuals to complete a Behaviour Change Program during this period.

Interlock Period and Consequences for Violation

Typically, the minimum interlock participation period is six months to one year. During this period of time, the driver must not incur further offences or violations. Hence, it is crucial to understand the program duration and the specific rules they must follow.

If the participant fails to comply with the rules, they may face consequences. One repercussion is the period extension. This means the time the individual is bound by the interlock program rules is prolonged. It may also result in a licence disqualification period. This will prohibit the person from operating any type of vehicle.

Conclusion

An interlock in a car is a crucial safety device for ensuring that drivers under probation do not drive while intoxicated. Authorised interlock service providers install it in the dashboard or console of light or heavy vehicles. This prevents individuals from driving if their BAC exceeds the legal limit. Moreover, it prompts the driver to conduct testing at random times. The device records all failed and missed tests. During recalibration, the provider will collect the data.

Those convicted of high-risk drink driving offences may apply for an interlock licence. However, they must gain permission from a medical professional before doing so. Furthermore, they must shoulder all expenses under the program. Typically, an interlock program lasts between six months to a year. Violating the rules may result in extensions or licence disqualification. Thus, it is crucial to follow the rules and try to minimise the possibility of false positives.

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