By on July 1, 2009

According to Time magazine, a federal highway bill moving through congress would require mandatory breathalyzer ignition interlocks be placed on all cars belonging to DUI convicts. The interlocks would require the driver to pass a blood-alcohol level breath test before an equipped vehicle can be started. Currently several states require interlocks for citizens convicted of DUIs, while others require them only for repeat offenders. The highway bill would block federal infrastructure funds to any state that does not approve mandatory interlock laws. Mandatory interlocks have been a hotlydebated topic for some time, but few had expected the old highway-funding canard to be warmed up for the battle.

“The national 21 minimum drinking age and the .08% law [for allowable alcohol in the bloodstream] both resulted from federal highway sanctions. History tells us that this approach works,” say spokesfolks for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Yes, well so was the double nickel. And look how that turned out. But MADD supports the bill, citing New Mexico’s example, where DUI-caused deaths reportedly dropped by 35 percent after an interlock law was enacted.

The other side of the coin? One New Jersey Assemblyman has an interesting perspective on a proposed state interlock law, pointing out that the monthly interlock fee would raise the fines for a first-time offender to over $10,000. Which is likely more than many cars are actually worth. As a result, “one merely has to transfer title ownership of the car to a spouse, child or family friend,” in order to avoid the monthly interlock and its attendant fees.

In Wyoming, lawmakers respond to the charge of interlock loopholes by suggesting that the state should simply impound cars belonging to DUI convicts. Since MADD estimates that DUI is America’s favorite crime, this solution (combined with auctions) might help out the odd budget crisis as well.

In Ohio, where judges are allowed (but not required) to issue interlocks, an editorial points out:

Only 11 states have laws that mirror the proposed federal legislation. That doesn’t mean that 11 states have taken the right approach, or the wrong approach, to DUI offenders. What it means is that only 11 states have had a debate about the pros and cons that led to such a mandate. Ohio’s law allows judges to order the use of ignition interlock systems when granting limiting driving privileges. In other words, Ohio’s law allows judges to make judgments, which is what voters elect judges to do.

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27 Comments on “Mandatory Ignition Interlock Law in the Offing?...”

  • avatar

    I’m not going to judge any Saturn Ion owners that turn to alcoholism.

  • avatar

    I have no tolerance for drunk driving and drunk drivers.

    But there are too many loopholes here with interlock devices. Somebody could just have their kid or buddy blow into the device.

    And do you have to blow into the device if you’re fixing the guy’s car and you need to take it on a test drive? Yuck!

    In general, disparities abound with the subject of drunk driving. We have stiff penalties in some states for killing a highway worker; here it’s something like $15,000 and/or 7 years in prison. And there are very very few highway worker deaths to start with.

    Drunk driving is arguably a bigger problem, but the penalties are still very light; even when the drunk kills somebody.

  • avatar

    Here’s another idea, punish the drunk driver according to what he/she has done. If you kill somebody driving drunk, you should be guilty of 2nd degree murder. We would undoubtedly see an initial increase in the prison population, but maybe people would get the message that you are going to be held responsible for your actions whether you are drunk or sober.

  • avatar

    People should be required to be properly caffeinated and nicotinated before they drive.

    Seriously, it would probably be very easy to get some passer-by to blow on the interlock device.

  • avatar

    Of course, getting around the interlocks is as easy as physically removing the interlock. To make it “tamper-proof” would require industry-wide standardization of engine ignition/management techniques and technologies to harmonize with the interlock standard. Otherwise, there will always be a “loophole” to just physically unplug the breathalyser junk and get on your way after that pitcher of margaritas.

    Of course, you can prevent that by installing GPS-wireless electric snoops that cry for Big Mother every time the breathalyser doesn’t register at the Central Office. Obviously that involves policey-statey-1984-ey type questions, that I am sure MADD would be quite quick to discount. Quite disturbing.

  • avatar

    The old adage of “quo bono” applies here. When there was a huge push for these in Utah (maybe AZ), the biggest contributor for the campaign was…the maker of the interlock devices!

  • avatar

    MADD also wants to suspend due process for anyone suspected of drunk driving, so what’s your point?

    While I do not promote being irresponsible, destructive, or murderous, MADD is full of all sorts of crazy.

  • avatar

    I don’t think interlocks should be mandatory after a first offense, after all, anyone can make a mistake. For repeat offenders, I wouldn’t be opposed. After all, most people aren’t going to go through the time and hassle to remove the device, and, while yes, you could get someone else to blow into it for you, I doubt most strangers on the street would agree to blow into it for someone, most of your buddies at the bar are going to be just as drunk and thus of no use, and if you have someone sober in the car with you, you could just have them drive anyway.

  • avatar

    As the penalties for drunken driving increase, so too does the definition of “Driving Under The Influence” become more and more broad. At least in Washington, you can be convicted of DUI when you’re not actually drunk, and not actually driving.

    The crusade to crucify anyone driving with a whiff of alcohol or medication in their system is starting to look like a witch hunt. Depending on the details of how it is implemented, these broad IID laws could just be more pitchforks in the hands of angry villagers.

    If they’re only for repeat offenders or the truly trashed, I’m all for them.

    We’ll see.

  • avatar

    I think Drunk drivers who cause death to others should lose their licenses permanently.

    This device probably has plenty of loopholes or workarounds.

  • avatar

    We just had a discussion about drivers being charged with drunk driving while the car was stationary.

    This article seem to imply that if you’re drunk and even near a car – you can be considered driving drunk.

    In my dictionary, “driving a car” means controlling the direction and speed of the car.

    If you haven’t blown into the interlock – can you be considered “driving”? I would think not. The car is inoperable.

  • avatar

    All other discussion aside, I see no mention of the Bill number in the article.

    Interlock manufacturers are well aware of how their units can be bypassed. Some have even included cameras in their newest models with face recognition software to verify the correct person is blowing into the device. While these units can be bypassed (by someone who knows his way around automotive wiring) you are also required to take your vehicle in periodically for these to be checked and data on the unit to be downloaded. On top of that, you do not own the device but lease it. So this also cost you money each month.

  • avatar

    @Lumbergh21 Sir you just made my point.

    These things are difficult. Don’t ask me how I know but in the end with no harm done I have been a HUGE taxpayer, insurance patron, and private interlock enterprise coustmer.

    Anyone willing to start the “would have, could have, might have been, possibly could have occured, randomly firing a gun” stuff won’t work.

    It is wild how much you can give while taking nothing from socity.

    More and more people will be smacked HARD for a DUI and there will be a lash back. These are the people who have been overly punished. It is too easy to drink and drive. On the other hand it is VERY hard to rob a bank. Remember you can go to jail for both these crimes.

  • avatar

    Somebody correct me if I’m wrong. Ontario has the toughest DUI laws in North America. First offence will get you an interlock. The laws here have been ramped up steady for the last 20 year.

    Its an easy fix. Anymore than a couple of drinks,don’t drive.

  • avatar

    If you are driving drunk and you break a traffic law you should be pulled over, ticketed, taken off the road until sober, and probably fined or punished an extra bit over the normal penalty for whatever you did.

    However, currently, the penalties for drunk driving go far beyond the fine. Someone convicted is likely to lose their license, making it much harder to get to work, if they don’t get fired for the offense, will pay a butload more for insurance, and will find it much harder to get a new job with a DUI on their record. Add to this that the acceptable BAC has dropped from .15 to .10 to .08 and a lot more people are having their lives torn apart from a traffic stop.

    I’m against mandatory jail time sentencing minimums and penalties for virtually all crimes. The goal of our criminal justice system should be to discourage criminal activity, but also to rehabilitate. Drivers convicted of a DUI where no one was hurt should be put into a program to teach them how to get over any addictions they may have, and to teach them how to become better drivers.

    Also, what if the drunk driver was not the one who caused the accident? If somoene is driving drunk and gets t-boned by a sober driver running a red light, who is at fault?

  • avatar

    So what happens when the car won’t start when the owner is being approached by a carjacker? Or a medical emergency trumps concerns about driving after 4 beers, yet the person bleeds to death because the car would not start. I in no way condone driving drunk, but there must be a better way.

    I actually am offended about the way highway funding is used as blackmail. No doubt MADD would get really mad about the idea of rolling back the drinking age. Seems to me that if people were interested in saving lives, they would address the primary cause of preventable disease by instituting a 21 year old tobacco purchase age. The vast majority of smokers start before that age. And you could leave adult age smokers alone instead of harassing them all the time.

  • avatar

    This is exactly the kind of crap the federal government will use to jam down federal laws through to the states. Want money? Do what we say. Its awful.

    Expect a flood of this in the future…

  • avatar

    Oh, we should also set the BA level to .00. That would fix the problem.

    Honestly, what’s the difference between .08 and .10? Driving safety wise? I”m sure the difference is good at snagging more drivers.

    I too sometimes have a problem with these type of laws with super strict punishments. Can we really say the result of a .09 BAC blow makes one a far worse driver than granny who can’t drive or someone who is so tired they fall asleep behind the wheel? Granny and Van Winkle get slapped with an at-fault accident and a traffic citation. .09 with no accident gets you hell. Something isn’t right about that.

  • avatar

    Missouri just passed a state-wide law regarding the use of the interlock thingy.

    It gives a whole new slant on things the next time you are walking down the street and the chap looks up from the parked car and mumbles “Blow me?”

  • avatar

    “So what happens when the car won’t start when the owner is being approached by a carjacker?”

    You’d witness a comical scene where the carjacker is forced to down tools and fellate the device before he can make good his escape…this assumes of course the felon is a sober carjacker.

  • avatar

    A local radio show brought up this topic about a year ago. They had a guy call in that had one installed after being convicted a couple of times. He said all he did was blow up a balloon when he got to the bar, and then let the air out into the safety interlock to go home. The guy who really wants to break the law will find a way.

  • avatar

    So what happens when the car won’t start when the owner is being approached by a carjacker? Or a medical emergency trumps concerns about driving after 4 beers, yet the person bleeds to death because the car would not start. I in no way condone driving drunk, but there must be a better way.

    Either of those cases would be very rare, rather like the “I wont wear a seatbelt because I could crash through a bridge’s guardrails and drown.” Most—by a large margin—people in car accidents don’t go sliding into the water.

    Similarly, there’s likely more drunk drivers than carjackings and rush-to-the-hospital moments when you cannot get someone to blow-start your car will be rare (and you’re probably better off calling the EMTs in, anyway).

    That said, this is an iffy solution. Chronic drunks—who this is supposed to stop—will find a way around it. About the only option you have, other than incarceration, is to take the car away.

  • avatar

    The way I see it is if someone wants to drive, they will drive whether they have a license or not, or whether they have an interlock or not. Never underestimate a human being’s ability to find a way around a problem, irregardless if they know they shouldn’t.

  • avatar

    Some states like Ohio, Georgia and Minnesota have red license plates for repeat DUI offenders. This was shot down in CA, however, as will this ridiculousness.

  • avatar

    The way things are going, all cars will have these by 2016.

  • avatar

    Flashpoint :
    July 1st, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I think Drunk drivers who cause death to others should lose their licenses permanently.


    I think drunk drivers should have their licenses removed permanently.

    Those causing death should be charged with man-slaughter.

    Yeah, they didn’t deliberately kill someone (that’s for murder). They did deliberately enter a killing mode.

  • avatar

    There was a recent incident near Holland, MI where a drunk driver killed one cyclist and injured another when he ran a red light (the cyclists had the right of way).

    His license had been suspended for something like 16 years (related to DUIs). He has been charged w/ 2nd degree murder in addition to several other offenses like evading police. I doubt he’ll ever be a free man again (quite justified IMHO).

    Taking away his license didn’t work. If an interlock could be defeated, I’m sure he’d find a way. So, what do we do with these types of offenders? Unfortunately, I do tend to agree that incarceration is likely the only reasonable solution.

    The hard part in our society is that cars are such an essential part of the transportation infrastructure that people will work hard to defeat any technical or soft legal measure you put in their way.

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