Federal support for new ignition interlock device

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is calling for states, including Colorado, to consider the adoption of a new form of ignition interlock device. The installation of an ignition interlock device is commonly required after someone is convicted of drunk driving as a means to prevent repeat offenses.

The NHTSA has voiced support for the new technology in response to 2012 reports that identify the first increase in U.S. highway deaths since 2005. Strengthening efforts to keeps roads and highways in the nation safer is the reason noted for the new technology request. The new IIDs are also said to be easier to use and less obtrusive for drivers.

Understanding today's existing IID technology

The ignition interlock devices that are commonly used and accepted today operate based upon two primary components, one of which is clearly visible to drivers and the other which is not. The first portion of an IID can be considered a Breathalyzer. This device is mounted onto the dashboard of the driver's vehicle. The second component of an ignition interlock device is a computer microchip. This is installed into the ignition portion of a vehicle. Together, these two portions of the unit work to control operation of a vehicle as follows:

  • Before starting a vehicle, a driver breathes into the Breathalyzer unit on the dash to record his or her current blood alcohol level.
  • The data from the breath test is transmitted to the chip in the ignition where it is recorded.
  • The chip has been pre-programmed based upon acceptable BAC levels.
  • If the results of the breath test are within the acceptable range, the chip releases the ignition so that the driver can start the engine and drive.
  • If the results of the breath test are above the acceptable range, the chip maintains a lock on the ignition, preventing the driver from starting the engine.
  • The ignition will remain locked until the results from another test are found to be in the acceptable range.

Once the vehicle starts and is on the road, the system will require periodic tests. Because these tests can be taken while a car is in motion, they are often referred to as rolling retests. A failed rolling retest initiates the flashing of lights and honking of horn until the automobile is stopped, at which time the ignition is once again locked.

Options for drivers facing a DUI conviction

Colorado law allows courts to order the installation of IIDs when someone is convicted of DUI. Not all drivers must use them but it is one possibility along with jail time, fine and more. Any driver who has been arrested for drunk driving should consult with an attorney to learn how to obtain the best defense and outcome for his or her case.