Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on November 21st, 2006

Individuals convicted of DUI are increasingly required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed (at their expense) in their cars — and, as mentioned in yesterday's post, eventually requiring them as standard equipment in all vehicles. These notoriously inaccurate and unreliable gizmos are designed to prevent the ignition from working until after the driver has breathed into a mouthpiece and registered alcohol-free (although it takes little imagination to realize that a drunk driver can start the car by simply having his passenger breathe into the device).

This latest weapon in the "war on drunk driving" has been adopted in many states with the strong lobbying of MADD — and of manufacturers who make a huge profit on the devices. Consider a story in today's (March 16, 2005) Arizona Republic:

First-time DUI offenders could agree to equip their vehicles with an ignition interlock device to prevent drunken driving rather than face suspended driver's licenses under a bill that breezed through the Senate on Tuesday…..

Alberto Gutier, a former highway safety director lobbying for the Arizona Interlock Distributors Association, said increased sales isn't the bill's purpose. (Emphasis added.)

"It's not about expanding the market, it's about preventing drunk driving," Gutier said.

The bottom line, of course, is: Do IIDs prevent drunk driving? Do they make our streets safer? MADD claims that their "research" shows they do:

Interlocks have been shown to be effective in Maryland, Alberta, California and elsewhere with results ranging from 50 to 90 percent reductions in subsequent offenses by those offenders who were assigned interlock devices, compared with those who were not…..

While interlocks are not the only solution, as offenders tend to go back to their old ways once the device is off of the vehicle, they certainly keep the roads safer while these devices are in place.

Effective in California? Keep the roads safer? The California Department of Motor Vehicles released a study entitled An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Ignition Interlock in California: Report to the Legislature of the State of California. Among their conclusions:

The expected effect that an IID order/restriction issued by the court would result in a lower rate of subsequent DUI convictions was not observed. (p. 7) The risk of a subsequent crash was higher for drivers installing an IID, compared to drivers not installing a device; drivers installing an IID had a risk of a subsequent crash that was 84% higher than drivers not installing an IID. (p. 10) The results of this outcome study clearly show that IIDs are not effective in reducing DUI convictions or incidents for first DUI offenders …

Because there is no evidence that interlocks are an effective traffic safety measure for first DUI offenders, the use of the devices should not be emphasized. (p. 22)

Facts notwithstanding, MADD continues its campaign for mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices.

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  • Fed UP!!!!!!

    I am 25 and just about a month ago ended up getting a dwi. I had three martini’s in Two hours at a rest. and i thought that i was going to be fine. Needless to say…i was wrong. This was the first time i had ever been arrested for ANYTHING, in my life! When all is said and done it will have cost me about $4000.00. Which would have been fine…until it came to my attention that fines, costs of classes, IID’s…are all income based. Had i not been working…this whole ordeal probably would have cost me thousands less. Why the hell are people getting different penalties for the same damn crime?! Bullshit!!!! Because i work? Because I’m middle class? Because i don’t feed off the system…bc/ i pay taxes? You’re going to rape me!!!!!!!!!! And i’m the criminal, right? ANYWAY…now i have an IID in my car for 6 months, which the judge determinded bc/ i can afford to pay my bills i can also afford full price for the device, which is a little over $1000.00 (over 6 months). Great. As if that isn’t rediculous enough…my state, NY, made it mandatory to do “rolling tests”, which means that while i am driving my car, the machine will make me give random samples. This is sooooo frustrating, bc/ it is extremely distracting! There are penalties and fines if you don’t blow in a certain amount of time. You have to read the prompts on the screen of the machine so you know when to blow, then listen for a “click” sound, so that you know when to draw back. If you don’t do it properly, you have to wait, look at the screen and do it again!!!! Are you FUCKING SERIOUS!!!!! They said cell phones were dangerous, they said eating and driving was dangerous, they even were toying with the idea of cracking down on smoking cigarettes while driving, but blowing into the IID @ 30-65 miles an hour is an excellent way to crack down on drunk driving fatalities. You’re damn right it is you fucking dumbasses, peoplel aren’t going to get killed by drunk drivers anymore, they’re going to get killed by the poor schmuck trying to comply with their IID, while traveling 60miles an hour! Bravo MADD, Bravo NY State…what an excellent and well thought out plan. Keep up the good work!

  • elora kapp

    I agree; these ignition interlock devices are accidents waiting to happen.  The driver must IMMEDIATELY pull over (ok on a country road but not in NY where this is impossible without taking your life in your hands) – and blow into the thing; a photo is taken at the time he blows and all the while the horn is honking and people are giving the driver the finger for honking……some genius has to come up with something better than what is now offered.  A friend has this in his car and is complying but it is definitely MORE dangerous than using a cell phone while driving.