Are Ignition Interlock Devices Dangerous?

campbell 3ZUsNJhi Ik unsplash

Although ignition interlock devices (IIDs) can make the road safer by preventing intoxicated individuals from driving, they can also present a dangerous distraction that actually increases the risk of accidents.

How Ignition Interlock Devices Work

In certain states, if individuals are unsuccessful in getting charges dropped and wind up convicted with a DUI of a certain percent exceeding the legal limit of 0.08, the courts may require them to install and monitor an IID. This device attaches to the ignition’s wiring and requires the user to blow into the IID, which tests the alcohol content in their breath. If the device detects alcohol content, it will prevent the individual from starting the ignition and operating the vehicle.

If a driver is able to start the car after the initial test, the IID will then require the driver to periodically perform a “rolling test” at random intervals while driving. The device would then signal with a sound that lets the driver know when to blow into the device again. This prevents the driver from consuming alcohol at any point after starting the vehicle.

If the driver fails a rolling test, the device may cause the car’s headlights to flash or horn to honk, among other noises, which could distract the driver and increase the risk of an accident.

The Potential Dangers of IIDs

In addition to the distractions caused by the rolling test, the rolling test alone could be a distraction for drivers, potentially causing a crash. The reason for this is that the device often sits between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, requiring the driver to momentarily look down and reach for the device to blow into it. This is enough to cause drivers to stop paying attention to the driving task just long enough to cause a serious accident.

While IIDs typically give drivers several minutes to find a safe spot to pull over and take the rolling test, many drivers are more inclined to use the device while driving because of the convenience. At the same time, this increases the risk of accidents.

Because of the mental and physical steps needed when taking rolling tests with an IID, using these devices is somewhat similar to using a cell phone while driving. Drivers must hold and blow into the device properly for the test to perform, which frequently involves holding a button and reading the device’s display.

The potential dangers of IIDs make it important for drivers to find a safe location to pull the vehicle over and perform the test. While it may seem convenient to perform a rolling test while driving, this comes with potentially serious risks that put the driver and others in danger.