Touted as reliable, Blood Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices are anything but. An Ignition Interlock Device is a cheap breathalyzer which is connected to the electrical system of an offender’s vehicle. Before driving, the interlock user must breathe into the device so that it can gauge his or her BAC (blood alcohol content) reading. If the driver’s BAC is .020 or below, the device allows the engine to start. However, if the driver’s BAC is .021 or above, the car will not start. Once the car starts, the driver must periodically breathe into the device. If the device registers a BAC which is over a pre-set limit, a “rolling re-test violation” will occur. These rolling re-tests are designed to insure that the driver is not drinking while driving and he or she did not have someone else provide the initial breath sample.
In Massachusetts, an Interlock Device is required for anyone whose license has his or her license twice suspended in Massachusetts or any other jurisdiction for Drunk Driving or certain other alcohol related offenses. There has been agitated debate about ignition interlock devices in Massachusetts since their inception. These devices were required for drivers who reinstated their suspended license or were on hardship licenses, effective January 1, 2006. Although some claim interlock is the answer to many DUI issues, many experts point out that the device is faulty and false alcohol readings have resulted in 10 year and lifetime license suspensions.
The ignition interlock device is not completely problematic. Like any debatable item, the device has its benefits. For instance, by preventing people with a high BAC from driving, the device may possibly keep the roads safer and less prone to accidents during certain hours where heavy drinking is the norm. The Registry of Motor Vehicles and Board of Appeal should feel more comfortable granting hardship licenses to individuals with interlock devices. Interlock Devices should allow multiple offenders to keep their jobs so they can live their lives and support their families.In a perfect world, that may be enough, but this world is not perfect, and the device is considerably flawed.
The interlock devices used in Massachusetts use fuel cell technology. This is considerably less reliable than the infra-red technology used in police breathalyzers. These devices are not alcohol specific and a variety of substances other than alcoholic beverages will register as alcohol. For example, common substances such as protein bars, cough drops, cinnamon, baked goods, perfume, hairspray, and favored coffee has registered as alcohol. There have also been documented cases were the interlock device has registered alcohol and the driver immediately went to a hospital or police station for a comparison blood alcohol test. In every instance, these tests and/or police observations completely contradicted the faulty ignition interlock device. These are only a few examples of the many problems associated with interlock devices. Other problems include defective equipment, frayed cords, and rejection of breath samples.
The ignition interlock device is not a reliable device, and it relies on the “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. That is not what this country’s legal system is supposed to represent. No device that can so easily mistake items like baked goods, protein bars, mouthwash, and cough drops for alcohol should be relied upon to suspend someone’s license for 10 years or life. The sensor tests BAC through an oxidation reaction to the breath, unlike the more reliable infrared spectroscopy used in evidentiary breathalyzers. Therefore, drivers are given a sub-par machine that can potentially label them a criminal and destroy their lives. A person should be innocent until proven guilty, but with an unreliable detector, the opposite is true. Nevertheless, certain individuals who are seeking a hardship have no choice but to deal with interlock devices.
Hopefully you are now more educated on this matter. Before the laws evolve any more, the existing laws need to be perfected. No one should ever be charged for a violation which they have not committed and until these devices are proven to be more accurate, they should not be blindly relied upon to suspend someone’s license.