The Ignition Interlock Hoax

By James Baxter, NMA President

MADD and its bloated stepmother, NHTSA, have been pushing for mandated ignition interlock devices (IIDs), preferably in all vehicles, but they know from experience these things have to be done in an incremental fashion, or there could be severe public backlash and resistance. One can currently assume that the breathalyzer industry has been actively writing checks to “enhance public safety” through the legislated mandated use of these devices.

The first stage of the incremental process is to target “bad people,” that would be the two million people who receive DUIs, annually. The objective is to force the courts to require the installation in all cars driven by persons convicted of DUI. Obviously, this would be a bonanza for the companies that make and market IIDs. The country’s number one “early adopter,” California, jumped on this bandwagon in the late 1980’s. Subsequently, the CA state legislature had the foresight to insert a provision in the law that required an evaluation of the IID mandate. Here are some of those findings:

Although ordered by the courts to install IIDs, many DUI defendants did not do so, ostensibly because they could not afford to do so.

When comparing the DUI convicted drivers who actually drove vehicles with IIDs to DUI drivers who did not use IIDs, those using IIDs had significantly more crashes. (84 percent more)

First offenders with high BACs, .20 or higher, who were ordered to use IIDs had just as many subsequent DUIs and crashes as those first offenders who were not ordered to install IIDs.

However, the first offenders who actually had IIDs installed had far more crashes than those who did not.

If this measure is being considered for safety purposes, as is claimed by the proponents, why is the legislature considering a mandate that will substantially increase vehicle crashes?

The financial and collateral penalties, experienced by the average person convicted of DUI, ultimately constitute many thousands of dollars and lost educational and vocational opportunities. It hardly seems fair or rational to institute yet another penalty that does little more than benefit the Ignition Interlock Device industry, and body shops, while placing more burdens on hospital emergency rooms. That is, if the intent is to improve highway safety.

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7 Responses to “The Ignition Interlock Hoax”

  1. Tom Alciere says:

    Make the IID allow the car to start but not move, if the driver is drunk (like when you start a car with a remote starter.) Nobody has ever been hit by a car that wasn't moving. At closing time you can warm up your car and climb in drunk. The law should be changed so that's not a DWI. Now the drunks have a way to get home: They already ARE home. Just climb in. When they feel sober three hours later, the ignition interlock tells them otherwise. That's just as innocent as using a speedometer to make sure you don't drive too fast. But then where will MADD get all their Victim Impact Panel fees?

  2. […] got into 84% MORE accidents! Read “Lawmakers focus on new drunk driving laws” from WKOW Read the National Motorists Association’s blog against the ignition interlock device. Read the study about ignition interlock by the California DMV […]

  3. Ignition Interlock Devices are unreliable. I have personally represented clients who have not had a drink in years, but who have registered alcohol on their Ignition Interlock Devices. These devices are so unreliable that they are not admissible as evidence in criminal trials in Massachusetts. Because they use fuel cells instead of infrared technology to measure blood alcohol, they are not approved by the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing. Nevertheless, the Registry suspends licenses for 10 years or life based on the results reported by these devices. Here's an example: vapors containing alcohol from a vehicle's windshield washer fluid get sucked into the passenger compartment of a vehicle through the defroster. The unsuspecting motorist inhales the vapors and then blows into the IID. The Interlock Device shows alcohol. Another example: a motorist uses hand sanitizer and then blows into the device. Hand sanitizer contains 62% alcohol; again, a false reading and a potential lifetime license suspension. The Registry considers these devices "breathalyzers;" they are not. IIDs are cheap interlock devices and not scientific test instruments. One interlock provider instructed a user to bang the device 5 times if it did not work. When the user reported that it still did not work, the employee of the interlock company said to bang it harder! Interlock readings should not be taken as Gospel, but taken with a huge grain of salt.

    I stongly beleive that the IID program could be dramatically improved by increasing the lockout / violation threshold, allowing users to get an immediate comparison test, decreasing the harsh suspension penalties, and using better / more reliable equipment.

    Interlock has cost my clients needless legal expenses as well as sleepless nights and considerable anxiety. Imagine getting a letter stating that your license will be revoked for life because of an alleged violation when you did nothing wrong? It happens routinely in Massachusetts.

    Attorney Brian E. Simoneau

  4. james wesley landrum says:

    I myself have an ignition inerlock device in my vehicle " smart start " provides me with … i pay a little over 100 dollars a month to use a device that is unaffective . im on probation with the IID as a sanction the entire time of my probation sentence. i believe spreading the truth about iid's is verry important thank you Mr. Baxter for publishing this page

  5. Mick Peterson says:

    I have a Smart Start unit for 14 months, (Only ordered to be on for 12 months). In my last month they "Extended" my use of it(They =MVD) they claim "Due to Tampering". I have had nothing but problems with this unit. ALL of my claims are backed up with such things as when it "FAIL"ed me the first time, I had the Highway Patrol give me a BAC test that showed .000 (8 minutes after the unit "FAIL"ed me). When my battery died, it showed I tampered with it. Same as when my alternater quit. It gave me a strong "Warn"ing when I was eating my yogurt for breakfast on one occasion and when I drank my nutritional supplement separate occasion. And the last time it "Fail"ed me I went to the local Police Department in the city it happened (minutes after the system "FAIL"ed me)and took ANOTHER BAC and blew a .000 again. For the record, I live in Arizona and was convicted of DUI in the slightest degree with a BAC of .081. This unit has overheated and burned out internally and Smart Start had to drive me another unit to a different town due to the fact my vehicle was stranded when the unit literally melted down, it was new and had been in vehicle for only 2 hours when this happened. The courts do not want to hear about these things, the system needs more work and the courts need to see that they are not even close to where they need to be.

  6. It should be noted that the ignition interlock device is far from foolproof. Instead of using infrared spectrometry to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content, the interlock devices use a much less reliable fuel cell. The technology used in these devices results in false positive alcohol readings, which are often the product of contamination or malfunction. False positive alcohol readings result in far more than the inconvenience of not being able to start your car. In Massachusetts, for example, ignition interlock violations result in automatic 10 year or lifetime license revocations. These are extremely harsh penalties which are imposed based on the results produced by unreliable devices.

    An employee of one interlock company instructed by client to bang her interlock device 5 times when it did not work. When she stated that it was still not working, he said “hit it harder.” Imagine that? These devices are far from the scientific test instruments which MADD makes them out to be. So many common foods, beverages, and other products have registered false positive readings. Examples include: flavored coffee, a cinnamon bun, sugarless gum, cough drops, mouthwash, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, cough medicine, windshield washer fluid, leaking anti-freeze, and protein bars. The IID simply cannot differentiate between many common substances and true breath alcohol.

    Attorney Brian E. Simoneau

  7. lcb1 says:

    I would like to know what the ratio of how many sober drivers have been stranded because of these IID's I am so mad I got a DUI in 2003 and have been sober since then. I had to do an 18month program and I completed it but before I complete I drove and got a driving on a suspended, I was sober when I went through the check point. now the dmv wants me to put IID in my car in order to get my license back because my orginal charge was a DUI almost ten years ago. I just found out this new law passed in California in Jan. 2009. How dumb is that!!! The court aren't requiring me be only the DMV is.