Do Ignition Interlock Devices Really Work?

how do ignition interlock devices work

In 2016, Pennsylvania passed a new law regarding punishments for driving under the influence. Under the new law, certain first-time offenders may be able to avoid having their license suspended. Instead, they can apply to have an ignition interlock device installed into their car. Doing so allows those who may have may a one-time mistake to still go to school or work, as long as they are sober.

While Senate Bill 290 was a widely-praised move at the time, problems with the devices have since been brought to light. Critics have been quick to point out that these issues can make choosing an ignition interlock device almost not worth it. And for those who are impacted by these problems, their daily lives can be severely hampered.

How Ignition Interlock Devices Workshutterstock_196210403

Before we can fully explain the problems ignition interlock devices, or IIDs, present, it’s important to understand how they work. IIDs prevent the engine from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content is above a certain limit. Drivers have to blow into a tube, similar to a Breathalyzer, before the engine will start.

The obvious solution for drivers who have been drinking is to have someone else blow into the device instead. However, this is prevented by requiring periodic tests as the car is being driven. When required, drivers must pull over and blow into the IID again before they can continue on.

While ignition interlock devices seem like a convenient solution to losing your license, they don’t come cheap. Installation can cost upwards of $150, and then there are the monthly fees. IIDs must be maintained, which can cost about $80 a month. If you are required to keep an IID in your car for a year, that comes out to over $1,100.

So What’s the Problem?

The core of the problem comes with how the ignition interlock device works. They are specially designed to measure the temperature of the air being blown into it, as well as the strength of the breath. That prevents drivers from using something like compressed air to trick the ignition interlock device. However, it is this very same mechanism that can cause some drivers from starting their vehicles, even if they are stone sober.

Issues like asthma and emphysema can prevent sober drivers from providing the full breath needed for the engine to start. One Pennsylvania driver, Donna Slagle, has experienced this issue firsthand. So far, she has had to have her ignition interlock device replaced twice, with each one recalibrated for the amount of air she is able to exhale. Yet, she still is unable to start her car sometimes because her exhale into the IID still isn’t strong enough.

With these issues still prevalent in our state, some critics are calling for a loosening of Senate Bill 290. Or, at the very least, they are calling for IID manufacturers to give more consideration to those drivers who are unable to give a strong exhale.

Physical impairments only the only issue. IIDs have been used in Pennsylvania in some form or fashion for almost two decades now. Yes, DUI arrests have stayed relatively constant. Though there has been a decrease in alcohol-related DUIs, there has been a sharp increase in drug-related DUI arrests. In addition, once the devices are removed from the vehicle, the recidivism rates are practically the same as those who never had IIDs installed.

It is true that ignition interlock devices reduce the incidence of drunk driving for those who have them installed, the overall cost and benefits of these devices are questionable at best.

Get Help with a Pennsylvania DUI Arrest Today

If you are facing your first DUI offense in Pennsylvania, you need an experienced PA DUI lawyer who can represent you well in court. Our attorneys have the skills and experience to increase your chances of having your charges reduced — or perhaps even dropped altogether. We know the mistakes officers often make, and we know how to use them to your advantage.

Give us a call at (215) 940-1200 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation with a PA DUI lawyer today.