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Ignition Interlock Truth v. Myth

Many DUI penalties are harsh, especially for first time offenders. Ignition interlock devices are a way to allow DUI offenders to still drive, but with the reassurance that they will not get behind the wheel drunk. But there still are many questions that surround ignition interlock devices. So let’s separate truth from myth.

There is a common misconception that things you eat or drink (non-alcoholic) will skew the results of the device. While this is true in some cases, there is a simple solution to this. If alcohol from a food, drink, mouth spray or medicine is in the subject’s system at the time of the breath test, it will be detected by the system and will prevent the engine from starting. Drivers are advised not to consume anything with alcohol for 5 minutes prior to testing. The body will absorb any residual alcohol within a few minutes of ingesting it. Medications containing alcohol can also prevent the vehicle from starting and will cause a violation to be recorded.

Doughnuts and pastries made with yeast can also skew results, but as recommended with this device in any case, the subject should wash his or her mouth out with water before blowing into it. This will prevent any and all problems relating to food. There is also a question when it comes to spicy foods causing the ignition interlock device to fail. Stomach acids can create methane gas, but this would only affect a non-alcohol-specific interlock device. Spicy foods will not alter the results of an alcohol-specific ignition interlock device.

Temperature and altitude levels can have a nominal effect of ignition interlocks since they are designed to withstand a wide range. Temperatures from minus 49 degrees to 185 degrees and altitudes of up to 11,000+ feet should not effect the results. However, it should be noted that there is a 5 minute warm-up time needed in extremely cold temperatures.

Another myth is that smokers cannot use an ignition interlock device. This is also false. Alcohol-specific ignition interlock devices are not affected by smoke. Even using aftershave, perfume or hairspray which all contain alcohol will not cause an ignition interlock system to fail.

Can you fill your car up with gas cause a problem with an ignition interlock device? The answer is no. The subject can get gas on a regular basis and the interlock system will not be affected by the fumes at the station.

What about rolling re-tests which require the subject to blow into the device while driving to make sure they are staying sober? Are these tests safe? The answer is yes. In fact, the car will not stop running if the subject fails his rolling re-test. The information will be recorded and sent to the probation officer or judge. These tests are not dangerous. The driver does have the option of pulling over to perform the test instead of doing it while driving.

So do ignition interlock devices really work? There are myths that the device often spontaneously aborts, stopping the vehicle from moving. The truth is the only reason this would happen is if the subject blows into the device improperly, or if his BAC registers above the set amount. Of course, the device CANNOT and WILL NOT start without providing a proper breath sample. If it is tampered with, the device will register a violation.

Can someone else start the car for the DUI offender by blowing into the device? The answer is yes, but thanks to cameras on the device, and rolling re-tests, it is nearly impossible for this to happen without the system recording a violation.

When an ignition interlock device is properly calibrated and set up, it is foolproof. There is no reason to doubt that these systems will work perfectly and prevent future drunk driving incidents.