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The Potential Growth of Ignition Interlocks in All New Cars

The state of New York may require any driver convicted of a
drinking and driving offense to install an ignition interlock device in his or her car, including first-time offenders. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only New York and 13 other states require the use of ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving offenses, but that may eventually change. A new federal highway bill incentivizes states to adopt more stringent ignition interlock laws, and also encourages the development of a new alcohol-detection device that may eventually be installed in all new cars.

In early July, President Obama signed a transportation bill entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, also known as MAP-21. The new federal transportation law aims to expand the use of interlock devices by encouraging states to pass related laws and by encouraging the development of new technology. Under MAP-21, states will receive federal highway funds to adopt ignition interlock laws that apply to all types of drunk driving offenses. The law also seeks to foster novel alcohol-detection technology by funding the development of a less intrusive method. One of the new technologies is likely to be a passive system that detects chemicals on the skin of the driver. If a sufficient reading of chemicals is detected on the driver’s skin, the device would prevent a vehicle from starting. If the technology proves reliable enough, the system could be installed in all new cars. However, the development of the technology is not near that point yet.

At least one trade group is opposed to that end goal. The managing director of the American Beverage Institute believes the requirement to install alcohol-sensing technology or an equivalent in all new cars will have a detrimental effect on restaurants and other places where people socialize. The trade group speculates that the technology will not only prevent drunk drivers from driving, but also anyone who consumes even one alcoholic drink before driving. In an opinion piece, the managing director also explained that the devices will have to be set below the legal limit for legal concerns because it can take a few hours for a person to reach their peak blood alcohol content after consuming alcohol. The option of having a drink with dinner may soon be off the table, the ABI laments. So far, no state requires alcohol detection devices in new vehicles.

The interlock device prevents the car from starting if the driver has a 0.025 percent blood alcohol content or greater, and the device conducts a retest within five to 15 minutes of starting the vehicle. Some devices also contain cameras to prevent anyone other than the driver from taking the test. Drivers are responsible for the cost of the device. The installation cost ranges from $0 to $100, and requires a monthly charge of $70 to $110. If a driver fails a test, the device sets off an alarm and the vehicle’s horn. Drivers should also be warned that the device records the number of times a driver starts or attempts to start the vehicle, his or her blood alcohol level at the time of an attempt, and the duration the vehicle traveled during the monitoring period.

If you face a drinking and driving offense in New York, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.