The point of DUI interventions is to create a safe driving experience for everyone – whether you are the one on the road or not. However, what happens when a device meant to save lives is harming them instead?
Over the past few years, there have been complaints about ignition interlock systems causing drivers to get distracted while driving. Unfortunately, some of these distractions have led to car accidents. The main issue with this situation is that the system is meant to prevent the risk of people driving while intoxicated. By analyzing the driver’s breath, the ignition interlock device determines if the driver has ingested any alcohol. The car can only start after the system has verified that the driver hasn’t been drinking. Throughout the drive, the interlock will administer random breath tests and can disable the vehicle until the driver passes the test.
Utilizing the breath test function can be quite dangerous. Like Sheila Dunn of the National Motorist Association stated, “…any time you have a system that requires you to do something while you’re driving is a bad system, because it is distracted driving.” For some versions of the device, drivers have to take their eyes off of the road in order to complete the test. Much like using a cellphone while driving, even the slightest distraction can lead to an unfortunate situation. In 2017, a Texan woman was pulling out of her driveway when she was hit by a man trying to use the interlock device. Unfortunately, she passed away due to her injuries. It appears that more safeguards or instructions need to be included for the device.
In addition, there is the possibility that the technology could read a false positive or interpret other alcohol-containing compounds as an alcoholic beverage. Substances such as gum or fruit juice contain components that end in ‘-ol’, components that are classified as alcohols. As of this year, ignition interlock devices are considered mandatory for first time DUI offenders and repeat offenders in California. If measures like this are to be taken, more consideration needs to be made towards all forms of risk.