Can ignition interlock devices be a driving hazard?

In the absence of a parole officer, convicted drunk drivers are now taking breathalyzer tests before their car engines will even start…and they are breathing into the dashboard! Ignition interlock devices all over the U.S. require a BAC (blood alcohol consumption) level of .02-.04% before a car will start. But can the “rolling retest” for blood-alcohol levels endanger the lives of drivers and fellow travelers?

minute read

Ignition interlock devices are increasingly being installed on the dashoards of repeat DUI offenders. In fact, from 2001 to 2002 IID court orders increased almost 75%. The benefits are clear. IIDs prevents drunk driving by stopping would-be drunken drivers from turning on their cars. IID systems log and record each breathalyzer session to report back to courts. Routine service is required every 30-60-90 days, and failure to service will lead to a permanent lockout.

But critics look at the random “rolling tests” as possible highway hazards. These rolling re-tests occur five minutes after ignition and then randomly in 5-30 minutes increments to prevent the possibility of a sober friend from assisting an intoxicated driver and breathing into the IID to start the engine. Three consecutive refusals to provide a rolling retest, or three breath tests over the set point will start the horn honking and emergency lights flashing.


Breathing into a breathalyzer while driving (sometimes for 6 seconds) is, to me, a real risk. Simply put, I wouldn’t want to be driving down the road and have someone coming the other way trying to blow into a tube. I was witness to an accident where a driver looked down to change the radio station. How long does THAT take?

If possible, I’d suggest that the manufacturers create a 5 minute window during which time a driver can pull over and safely administer the test again. Impairment via distraction can cause serious harm during driving. Rolling retests are designed to remove the possibility of a fraudulent first test, but I think that while the technology is rather new and in its beginning phases, the re-test needs amendment.

What do you think? Are IIDs doing more good than harm? Should manufacturers continue to evolve the technology? Is the rolling re-test a good idea at all? Are you ready to take action, like MADD’s call for advocacy and support IID legislation?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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