How Do “Smart Start” Interlock Devices Work?
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one person dies due to a drunk driving accident almost every 45 minutes. Legislatures across the country have passed numerous laws to try to combat this menace. One such law passed by the California legislature relates to the use of interlock devices to prevent repeat incidents of DUIs.
These devices are attached to a car and interact with the ignition. When a driver of that car attempts to start the vehicle, they must exhale into the device. If the device detects a certain minimum amount of alcohol in the exhalation, the car won’t start.
Who Uses Interlock Devices?
When you are sentenced to a DUI in California, the court may order you to install an ignition interlock device as part of your sentence. If you are so ordered, you must use the device every time you drive your car. Furthermore, you will likely be prohibited from driving any vehicle that doesn’t have an interlock device.
What Happens If You Fail the Test?
There are two possible outcomes if you fail a breathalyzer test on an interlock device. If you haven’t yet started the car, the engine won’t start, and you will be unable to drive the vehicle. The system will log your failed test and lock you out from attempting to start the car again for a prescribed time period.
It is also possible to fail the test after you have already started the engine of the car. Interlock devices require random testing while the car is in use. If you fail a test while the car is in use, the system will not immediately turn off the engine because that could cause an accident. However, it will log the failed test and record the fact that the engine was turned on when you failed the test.
Bypassing the Interlock Device
While not being able to drive your car is annoying, you should never attempt to bypass the device. Any attempt to tamper with, remove, or bypass the device will likely result in your license being revoked.
Depending on other circumstances, it could even result in you facing jail time. A court order mandates that you use the device, and only rare extenuating circumstances allow you to ignore that order.
Can the Interlock Device Fail?
The manufacturer claims that the interlock device never fails, but that is only true in technical terms. The device can refuse to start your car even though you haven’t been drinking alcohol. That is because certain foods or drugs either have alcohol or have mixtures of chemicals that the device detects as alcohol. Thus, even though your blood alcohol content may not be raised, alcohol could be detected in your breath.
To avoid false positives when using an interlock device, you should thoroughly wash your mouth out with water after using certain legal pharmaceuticals or eating a certain food.
Food and drugs to watch out for are:
- Spicy foods
- Sugary foods with yeast
The interlock can’t differentiate between a false positive and actual alcohol consumption. If you get a false positive, the device will prevent you from starting your car and log the event as a failure.
Interlock Devices Prevent Accidents in California
California uses interlock devices as a means of preventing repeated drunk driving car accidents. An interlock device can’t stop you from drinking, but it can prevent you from causing harm by driving under the influence.
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Last Updated on July 1, 2022