MADD’s Miracle Cure: Ignition Interlocks

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on July 11th, 2007

As I’ve mention in previous posts, MADD has trumpeted ignition interlock devices  (IIDs) as their answer to the “carnage on the highways” — going so far as having their national president  announce to the media that the device would “literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States”.  (See “Lies, Damned Lies and MADD Press Releases”).

I’ve also posted in the recent past that these IIDs are inaccurate, unreliable and exist primarily because (1) there is strong political pressure from MADD on the legislatures and the courts, and  (2) there is a lot of money in them for the manufacturers and local governments.  (See “Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable”.) 

Based upon recent history, however, expect to see the federal government, pushed by MADD’s Washington lobbyists and $52 million annual budget, to continue usurping state jurisdictions and require mandatory IIDs in all DUI cases — or lose federal highway funding.  As has been done with reduction of blood-alcohol limits to .08%, zero tolerance (.01% for drivers under 21), automatic license suspensions administered in the field by the police, ad nauseum.  While these may or may not be appropriate, it would seem they should be matters for the states to determine, as they have always been. 

But what about these IIDs — these miracle cures to end all drunk driving?  The following is excerpted from a comment recently posted by a reader:


First, I haven’t had anything to drink in over four years.  I have a Draeger Interlock installed in my car (pre-XT) model as that’s all that was available from the one local dealer.

My problem is that it doesn’t work as it should which creates frustrating and potentially dangerous situations due to the amount of extra attention required.  To begin with, you have to suck/blow just right!

Blowing Problems
1. Didn’t suck hard enough.
2. Didn’t suck/blow quickly enough.
3. Blew to soft.
4. Blew too hard.
5. Didn’t blow long enough.
6. Any combination of the above.

You are allowed 10 tries in theory before a lockout scenario. 

First Problem 06/13/07

The first time I failed was for a re-test just as I was getting ready to turn car off and get gas.  After several tries, the horn blew. After a few more the horn started blowing every 20 seconds and the lights are flashing.  Now, I’m driving through a busy suburban neighborhood with the horn and lights going while trying to get the interlock to accept a blow test.  Finally about 10-15 minutes and 20-25 attempts, it accepted the test and passed me which stopped the horn and lights.

Second Problem 06/23/07

The second time I was at a hot construction site and after 10 tries before starting, the car went into lockdown for 15 minutes before I was allowed try again (which I did and got it started).

Third Problem 06/29/07

The third time I had a problem. I got a re-test and after 6-7 blows, it said disabled and while I was driving and started a 15 min lockout countdown. Two and one-half minutes later at a congested traffic light, the horn and lights started going off.  I pulled into a parking lot and turned the car off till the remainder of the 15 minutes expired and allowed me to restart the car.
Note: The first & third problems are contradictory as to how it’s supposed to function. I believe the third is what was supposed to happen.  None the less, getting this to work as it should has become a real problem in itself.

Fourth Problem 07/05/07

The fourth problem today was that it totally lost its logic.  I started the car and going down the interstate. Instead of the first 15 min re-test I was expecting, it said re-test after about 10 minutes.  I blew and passed the rolling re-test.  However, instead of putting dot’s on the screen it says “OK to Start” as if I was ready to start the car for the first time or had shut the car off and had a 4 min window to re-start without testing. It was stuck in a loop. Every 4 minutes now going down the interstate it’s goes into a 10 sec warm-up countdown and asks for another test as if the car had not been started.  Each time I pass it say’s “Ok to Start” again and waits another 4 minutes.  The bottom line is it’s unable to distinguish whether the car is turned on or off.

Design flaw: It has a display measuring bars which can’t be seen while taking the test. It also provides to tones to gauges the success or not of a test.  Being hearing impaired, I cannot hear the high-pitched tones (which are the first to go with a hearing loss). There is no volume control, tone adjustments, or options for external amp/speakers.  I have currently overcome this by buying a $25 2″ amp with a microphone and headphone jack from Radio Shack and taping it to the back of the box.  This means turning on the amp and inserting an ear-bud in addition to having to turn the stereo down and the air conditioning off every time this ask for a re-test all while under a 5 minute time restraint while driving.


And that’s what is going to “literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States”.

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