Maker of Ignition Interlock Devices: Public Safety Demands a Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Shocking, isn’t it?

But good on the Washington Times for exposing the money grab behind the “public safety” campaign to mandate the devices for first-time DUI offenders.

A bill that would withhold up to 5 percent of each state’s highway funding unless that state requires such as device in the cars of all convicted drunken drivers was introduced in the Senate in February by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, and last month in the House by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat.

For the past 18 months, lobbyists for “ignition interlocks,” as they are called, have jockeyed to inject a provision into the crevices of the transportation reauthorization bill, a tentative outline of which was released Friday by Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican.

The hospitality industry says a mandate could pave the way for a different type of sensor, other than a Breathalyzer, to be made standard in all cars within five years, in line with a separate House proposal introduced last month that would allocate $60 million over that period to develop the technology. Those devices would be set to detect blood alcohol content near the legal limit, likely through skin contact with the steering wheel.

The Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers hired lobbyist David Kelly, a former chief of staff and acting administrator at the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Lautenberg’s former chief of staff, Tim Yehl, now lobbies for Ignition Interlock Systems of Iowa . . .

The manufacturers are taking a page from a well-worn playbook: lobbying campaigns in which private companies advocate for government requirements that would make them rich by aligning with activist forces who provide moral pronouncements that are appealing to politicians and – once on the table – the public . . .

“The overwhelming majority of entities that want to regulate in some way are composed of Baptists and bootleggers,” said Peter Van Doren, editor of the quarterly journal Regulation, referring to the two groups that pressed for Prohibition 90 years ago: religious zealots who viewed alcohol as immoral and the gangsters who profited from its illegal status.

Manufacturers are “probably sincere and also making an alliance with Mothers Against Drunk Driving – the mothers would be the Baptists,” he said. “They’re going to them and saying if you mandate this thing, your version of the world will come along, and it just so happens we’ll get rich – but of course they don’t say that part.”

I’m fine with mandating these devices for repeat offenders. But first-time offenders is too much, especially for someone barely above the too-low legal limit. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to worry about the possibility that this campaign will expand to demand the devices in all new cars.

I’d also add here that there may indeed be good public safety arguments for this policy. I just don’t think the anti-alcohol fanatics can be trusted when they try to make them. A few years ago, for example, I wrote about a MADD report that “evaluated” DWI fatality data in all 50 states. Somehow, MADD’s objective analysis determined that every state was in urgent need of an ignition interlock law, regardless of whether the state’s DWI stats were trending up, trending down, or unchanged.

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49 Responses to “Maker of Ignition Interlock Devices: Public Safety Demands a Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices”

  1. #1 |  M | 

    Can’t we defeat this under a “no new taxes” banner?

  2. #2 |  Highway | 

    Ignition interlocks are notoriously poor devices judging by the reports of the people they are foisted upon. Now, those opinions might be discounted due to the fact that they are generally multi-DUI offenders, but by all accounts they severely limit the use of a vehicle. Of course, the lobbyists say “Well, if we had to make everyone do it, we’d come up with a different sensor type…” No they wouldn’t. Not until there was a tremendous outcry against the current horrible horrible devices. And even then people would be stuck with them because “it’s the law!”

    Everyone loved those crappy motorized seatbelts… or even better, GM’s non-motorized ones. This would be that debacle x 1000’s.

  3. #3 |  MRK | 

    I’m opposed to interlocks under any circumstances. Trying to use technology to solve problems always seems to lead to more problems. Here is how those interlocks go down: “Here son, blow on this tube so daddy can start the car and drive”.

  4. #4 |  bren | 

    What’s an “Interlock” anyways? When I hear this I think: “Activate interlock! Dynotherms connected! Infracells up! Mega thrusters are go! LET’S GO VOLTRON FORCE!”

  5. #5 |  MacGregory | 

    I did the interlock thing. It was a nightmare. I only did it because it cut my suspension in half. Some people think the thing works like a breathalyzer and as long as your not over the limit, you’re OK. Not so. If ANY alcohol is detected, you’re not going anywhere. In fact, a lot of other stupid shit will set it off. During the year I suffered through this, I was late for work at least 5 times. I took my toothbrush and toothpaste to work with me because I couldn’t brush before blowing. Another misconception: you are not free to move about the country. You are only allowed to drive to and from work, DUI classes and AA meetings. Fortunately the people running the program were somewhat cool and didn’t report it when I let it slip, telling that I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work one day.

  6. #6 |  WWJGD | 

    And the ads on the side are trying to sell me an interlock. Sure, I’d love it for some recreational nanny-statism.

  7. #7 |  Jesse | 

    Nope, still against drunk driving laws. Prosecute people for what they actually do, not for the chemicals in their blood.

  8. #8 |  BamBam | 

    @4, can’t have people being self sufficient and buying their groceries and other needs. There are government programs to assist you with that. Now shut up and wear your scarlet letter.

  9. #9 |  MPH | has gobs of information on all the problems with breathalyzers. Like the fact that they DON’T measure alcohol on the breath. They measure the “methyl” group, which includes alcohol and a bunch of other stuff.

    Jesse @ # 6 has it right. Current DUI laws essentially say “someone ELSE did something bad while driving drunk. You’re driving drunk, so we have to punish you because you MIGHT do what those other people did.”

    What’s next? Most domestic abusers commit their abuse while drunk. So now we have to do random searches of residences to check to see if you’re drunk, and if you are, we’ll have to punish you because you MIGHT abuse your spouse like those other people did.

    This should be easy. If you kill someone while driving, regardless of why (drunk, distracted, etc.), go to prison for manslaughter. After being in prison for a few years, bad drivers might get better, or find alternatives, rather than risk returning to prison. If you injure someone, or cause property damage, you pay for the injury, lost wages, property replacement, etc. Can’t afford it? Debtor’s prison, where you work off your debt.

    Sound too harsh? Let the victim decide if they should be released from their obligation to make things right, if the victim is still alive.

  10. #10 |  Henry Bowman | 

    In New Mexico, such interlocks are required after a DUI conviction. A few years ago some dope legislator actually got a bill passed through the state house of representatives to require such devices on all new vehicles sold in the state! The bill would have added $1000 to the cost of a new vehicle. Fortunately, the state senate did not go along, as our idiot governor (Richardson) would likely have signed it.

  11. #11 |  CB | 

    > I’m fine with mandating these devices for repeat offenders. But
    > first-time offenders is too much, especially for someone barely
    > above the too-low legal limit.

    What? The government will simply continue to lower the “too-low legal limit” and the standards of evidence and continue to bust more drivers, regardless. You’re fine with laws whereby people’s lives are ruined for causing no harm? With the drastic reduction of BAC levels constituting prima facie evidence for DUI (in my youth it was 0.15% in many states and now it’s 0.08% and even lower for holders of commercial licenses), and the aggressiveness of DA threats of additional associated charges, it is very common to get popped for a DUI without causing anyone harm. (The DA piles-on charges too serious to risk in trial, resulting in more and more victims of this industry copping pleas and settling for “just” the DUI conviction).

    Please don’t argue that no one needs to drink and drive and drinking and driving is dangerous. JUST DRIVING IS DANGEROUS! Automobiles are by far the greatest risk most people incur in their lives and most accidents don’t involve a DUI. No one “needs” to drive at all and, therefore, no one needs to subject others to the substantial risks associated with their actions. Driving, like drinking, or drinking and driving is voluntary. That’s right–I don’t think anyone needs to drive. Move closer to work. Get more exercise. Pollute less!

    However, “needs” notwithstanding, the issue is a question of liberty and one should only be held accountable for the consequences of their actions or they do not posses liberty. From the MADD industry propaganda itself, most DUI offenders drive under the influence of alcohol thousands of times before getting popped so clearly it’s possible to drive well enough after consuming alcohol to not cause an accident, just like it’s possible to talk on a cell phone or eat while driving too. Conversely, it’s possible to cause an accident without doing any of these things and it’s fairly common too.

    So, if you want to piss liberty down the drain, let’s just take a big leap down the slippery slope to tyranny and ban driving! But, nope; that won’t happen. There’s no money in it and, as with every law, one only needs to follow the money to find the true impetus for the violence force of law and control.

  12. #12 |  buzz | 

    If you are not against total prohibition of booze, and for random roadblocks then clearly you are a strong supporter or drunk drivers running down nuns and school children. Which happens every day. By drivers who had 1/2 a beer with lunch 4 hours prior. Ummm. Somewhere.

  13. #13 |  CTD | 

    I’m fine with mandating these devices for repeat offenders.

    Why? These things won’t actually stop anyone from driving who really wants to. They’re far more likely to inconvenience folks who are actually trying to abide by the requirements (who are the least likely to cause trouble). And exactly how long until these magical (and unreliable) machines start “phoning home” every time someone “fails” the test? And how long after that before that itself becomes a crime? Sound crazy? Hey, if they can arrest a guy for DUI for sleeping it off in the back seat of his car, they can arrest you for trying to start it. And the machine saying you did will be a presumption of guilt, of course.

    Most repeat DUI offenders are alcoholics with a disease that needs treatment. Many have lost their jobs, homes and families to their addiction. Do you really think some doodad is going to prevent them from getting behind the wheel if they really want to?

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    This reminds me of the SawStop which advocates want to make mandatory on all table saws. I remember there was controversy over whether government could mandate the 5 mph bumpers way back in the 70s. Now there isn’t anything they can’t mandate (especially of the price is right).

  15. #15 |  DoubleU | 

    The third brake light did a wonderful job at reducing rear end collisions… until everyone got used to seeing them, then the rear end collisions returned to the levels before they were mandated.
    I can’t imagine the government didn’t research this latest idea.

  16. #16 |  Marty | 

    the semen sniffer option will help prevent johns from cruising for hookers, too…

  17. #17 |  Chuchundra | 

    I don’t see any point to these devices, no matter how many times you repeat offend.

    I do miss those 5 MPH bumpers, though.

  18. #18 |  J.S. | 

    As someone who at times would be called a teetotaler since I rarely drink and whose father was an alcoholic, MADD and the bootleggers (in this case interlock) disgust me enough that I don’t support these laws anymore at all. The MADD gals are a bunch of emotional terrorists. Arresting people for sleeping it off in their car or setting up checkpoints or busting drinkers as they leave a bar (or in the bar itself for public drunkeness) are all the result of their nanny state insanity.

    If the baptists, the bootleggers and the revenuers all love it, you know its a bad idea.

  19. #19 |  hamburglar007 | 

    Haven’t found much more info on this:

  20. #20 |  Serpentio | 

    Woops, got bit by a rattlesnake, but can’t drive to the ER because I had a Coors. Dang. Well . . . I can either take on a pricey ambulance ride . . . or I can hope and pray that the can of CleanPuff I bought off the internet works as advertised . . .

  21. #21 |  CyniCAl | 

    If public safety becomes the engine of the economy, then in no time at all, the world will be filled with manufacturers of anti-freedom devices getting rich off the enslavement of mankind.

    Or is this not reality yet?

  22. #22 |  CyniCAl | 

    @ #11 CB, very well put, an excellent essay on liberty and DUI laws.

  23. #23 |  Murder Boner | 

    I wonder, do the owners of ignition interlock manufacturing companies have these devices installed on their vehicles, you know, in the interest of public safety?

  24. #24 |  Jay |

    Isn’t it interesting how sometimes calm, law-abiding people suddenly attack police officers without provocation?

  25. #25 |  CyniCAl | 

    Jay, Radley is the only one licensed to give nut-punches here. Goodness fuck. Like I needed more reasons to hate cops.

    God in heaven, I don’t even believe in you, but if you’re out there, please forgive me and please keep me safe from the police.

  26. #26 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Damn. That shooting in Bakersfield looks real bad. The guy was shot while walking away from a cop. Jesus.

  27. #27 |  a_random_guy | 

    The question no one seems to be asking: why should this be a federal issue? The individual states are perfectly capable of requiring interlocks if they want them. Some states will, and some won’t, and that’s as it should be.

    This is completely outside of federal jurisdiction. The federal government knows it to – as demonstrated by the fact that the “enforcement” is via blackmail, i.e., withholding federal highway funds.

  28. #28 |  croaker | 

    @25 Promotion to Sergeant is assured, then.

  29. #29 |  Jerry |

    Another website dedicated to showing how inane the DUI laws are.

    the DUI laws are inane and I Radley I have a hard time believing that you would support such devices. Breathalyzers are not accurate and as others have so eloquently stated they don’t measure the actual alcohol in you blood. These machines assume every person is exactly the same. The computer does an algorithm which assumes that we all have a 2100 to 1 partition of breath to blood alcohol.

    “So what did I mean in my earlier post by “unreliable breath machines” and “passing laws against science”? Here’s just one of many examples… The computers inside Breathalyzers actually multiply the amount of alcohol in a DUI suspect’s breath sample 2100 times to get the blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”). This is because it is programmed to assume that the suspect has 2100 units of alcohol in his blood for every unit of alcohol in his breath. This is called the “partition ratio”. But this ratio is only an average: actual ratios vary from as low as 900:1 to as high as 3500:1; if individual ratio is different, the BAC result will be different.

    Translation: If a suspect has a true BAC of .06% (“not guilty”) and a partition ratio of 1300:1, for example, the machine will give a result of .10% (“guilty”). Convicted by a machine. His crime? He was not average.”

    And that is a travesty we have with the Idiots at MADD and the NHTSA.

  30. #30 |  Mario | 

    The idea is to mandate the installation of these devices on all new cars sold in the U.S.? Well, after only a tiny bit of googling I see that they’ll have to make sure they include the vehicles sold to law enforcement as well.

  31. #31 |  Jeff | 

    To iterate (or reiterate) just one problem with these devices: they are exceptionally distracting. And, according to NHTSA’s (or, as I call them, SnitchSA’s) own phony statistics (if I am not completely mistaken): sober distractedness (not to mention sober speeding) causes more accidents than “drunk driving.”

    It has been a long time since any of this nonsense had anything to do with safety.

    I am also somewhat surprised to see the inestimable Mr. Balko support these devices in any context after he excoriated all DUI laws.

  32. #32 |  Mattocracy | 

    Sooner or later the ignition lock will be the snitch. Blowing over .08 won’t just keep your car from starting, it’ll call the cops on you.

  33. #33 |  Mannie | 

    I wonder if you can defeat the interlock by using canned air?

  34. #34 |  Eddie | 

    .08 is a stupid starting point for DUI laws. Now, everything that comes after it is just building a skyscraper on top of a foundation made from crap.

  35. #35 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Unrelated: I searched on “ex-police officer find animals” and most of the first links were about very bad behavior.

  36. #36 |  J | 

    There are several manufacturers of these devices. Years ago an older brother worked construction and used his air compressor to blow into the machine.

    Most units have tamper devices now. I know of one that requires you to blow, then start humming, and continue to blow for up to 15 seconds. Another requires you to suck in air for a short time after blowing into the unit.

    Most also have ‘rolling re-tests’, which go off about every 15-45 minutes whenever the car is on. You have a set amount of time to blow on these re-tests, and I missed them all the time when the music was up or the windows down.

    An old roommate used to have his girlfriend blow in his unit in the mornings after drinking, and he would just unplug it and drive to work. The unplugged unit never registered a fault.

    These types of actions only support our corrupt police/judicial/incarceration complex.

  37. #37 |  Monica | 

    Anything that the fanatics of MADD support I automatically oppose.

  38. #38 |  MassHole | 

    Interlocks, just like door locks, keep honest people honest. Around here, car stereo/alarm shops install them. I would imagine it only takes a rudimentary amount of wiring to work around them.

  39. #39 |  CB | 

    @ #22 CyniCAl, Thank you!

    @ #14 Dave Krueger, Absolutely! As always, follow the money behind the SawStop. The patent holders are pushing for the legislation. Ditto for the micro-stamping of ammunition with serial numbers and probably tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of other inventions mandated by law and regulation. Every patent issued by the government is a potential government decree and mandate!

  40. #40 |  J | 


    You’re correct, there are ways to ‘beat the system’, such as unplugging, etc.

    However, during a traffic stop once, the police officer saw the unit, and made me turn off the vehicle, wait five minutes, and then blow/start the car. If I had drank the night before and had my g/f ‘cheat’, then I would have been screwed. That cop said he’s busted people for tampering like that. According to that cop, it’s considered a refusal of a chemical test.

  41. #41 |  Ken | 

    Damned if I _ever_ buy a car with an interlock, a black box, or any other nanny crap. At best, there will be unfortunate ball-peen-hammer-involved mishaps.

  42. #42 |  BSK | 

    “You’re fine with laws whereby people’s lives are ruined for causing no harm?”

    CB- While I realize the arguments against punishing people for the potential for doing harm, I still find it unconvincing that we should let people engage in egregiously dangerous behavior and deal with the aftermath later. When a drunk driver kills someone, is it really right to say, “Well, we couldn’t do anything until AFTER he had an accident”? I realize this can easily be turned into a slippery-slope argument making anything with any potential for harm illegal. But that is nonsense. Some behaviors are so risky to others and their property that they should be prohibited. Drunk driving is one of them. I’d agree that our legal limits are too low and should be set higher.

  43. #43 |  Jerry | 

    BSK – “Some behaviors are so risky to others and their property they should be prohibited”

    Too risky according to who? With the non-stop bantering by the NHTSA and the cronies at MADD, you would think there are drunk drivers behind every bush waiting to run into or over you. This is no further from the case, yes extremely drunk individuals should not be driving and should be punished, but right now that is not the case. MADD is behind a war against the casual drinker, that’s why drunk driving accidents still occur, the police waste time and resources for the wrong people. In fact, if you look at the actual statistics, 50% of people involved in drunk driving accidents that casue a death are 1 person-1 car crashes. The NHTSA includes bicycles in their numbers, if you are a designated driver with a whole car of drunks and get in an accident, all are considered drunk even though the driver wasn’t. Anybody that is drunk and walks into the street and gets run over, is also considered an alcohol-related death. There are so many statistical shenanigan’s that it boggles the mind. The vast majority of deaths when alcohol is involved is when the person is over .16 (twice the 0.08 per se limit). This is where the limit needs to be unless you cause actual damage. IMHO A vehicle crash that causes a death is tragic, but would you feel anything les if the person was speeding or running a red light or does drinking only consitute the utmost in punishment?

    As a former traffic engineer, the majority of deaths occur becasue of weather (doesn’t matter if you are drunk or not, about 6000 people die per year in crashes at dusk/dawn – maybe we shold outlaw driving during thet period.) and poor light/designed roads, cars travelling too fast for the conditions.

  44. #44 |  CB | 

    > As a former traffic engineer, the majority of deaths occur becasue
    > of weather (doesn’t matter if you are drunk or not, about 6000
    > people die per year in crashes at dusk/dawn – maybe we shold
    > outlaw driving during thet period.) and poor light/designed roads,
    > cars travelling too fast for the conditions.

    Exactly, Jerry, but take it one step further; outlaw personal vehicles entirely. They are too dangerous and, as I posted above, nobody “needs” to drive! ;)

    I agree that road conditions are more significant than BAC. I see people slide off the road on my steep and windy commute every time it snows and often times when it rains hard. However, most of the people exhibit poor driving skills and judgment or they are being inattentive. I once saw a driver put their minivan into the ditch when there was less than a trace of snow on the road. The driver’s speed was not the problem. The problem was the driver (mis)judged their speed to be a problem at mid-apex of the corner and slammed on the brakes! It was the only action that would’ve put the van in the ditch, short of aiming for the ditch with the steering wheel!

  45. #45 |  Jerry | 

    CB- I agree. We’ve have totally lost our collective minds on most issues. Everyone is so sure that drinking is the cause, that they forget to look at other reasons, no one factor is the reason for any accident that occurs, everything plays a part. Driving drunk is just a nice easy scapegoat to hammer someone, becasue of course if they weren’t drinking the accident wouldn’t have occurred. You hear non-stop that removing drinking would stop all of the carnage. But if that is true, why then are there any accidents at all. The majority of accidents occur to sober drivers.

    BSK – I agree that drunk driving may be a reason to stop someone but the penalties currently do not fit the crime which has occurred. Until such a time as an accident with injury/death occurs, this is a victimless crime, end of story. And anyone who say otherwise is someone who doesn’t understand what constitutes a victim.

  46. #46 |  Jerry | 

    This is probably the one reason why i am so dead against these types of law. From the DUi BLog:

    Life in prison for a DUI? Rape gets 15 years, 2nd degree murder 25. Just an aberration, right? Wrong. See, for example, Third DUI = Life in Prison (Mississippi, alcoholic with 2 priors), Another Life Sentence for Drunk Driving (Texas, alcoholic with 9 priors), 99 Years for Drunk Driving (Texas, alcoholic with 7 priors).

    One of the premier DUI attorneys in the country, Troy McKinney of Houston, made an Open Records Act demand on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, asking: How many Texans are serving sentences of 60 years to life in prison for drunk driving? Not for drunk driving resulting in injury or death — just for drunk driving (or driving over .08%). The response from the Department:

    21 to 25 years 125
    26 to 30 years 39
    31 to 40 years 55
    41 to 59 years 16

    And finally:

    60 to 98 years 23
    99 years 6 Life 13

    Repeat: These are sentences just for drunk driving or driving over .08% — not for DWI causing death or serious injury. To trigger the longer sentences, the DWI was at least the offender’s fourth offense.

  47. #47 |  TEX53 | 

    The device is a joke. I am against drinking and driving, but the system does not work. My wifes husband had to have one put on his car. He does not even drive the car. His lic. is suspended, so he can not drive. He works out of town and has co-worker pick him up for work. His wife is the one having to take the car to get checked every month. Even if he was at home he still could not take it because he is not suppose to drive. Now the car does not even work, but yet the device has to stay on the car. How stupid is that? It is just a money making thing for the state and that is all. It does not prevent anyone from driving another car. I think the best thing would that they would have to wear a device that detects alcohol. That way it would show that they have been drinking and would have to face the judge. Car devices are a waste. The car is sitting at home not even driveable, but yet the device still has to stay on the vehicle.

  48. #48 |  Linda | 

    I have had my interlock for 4 months and since It’s been in my vehicle I’ve had 3 ignition coils go up. Interlock swears it has nothing to do with the device, I think they are wrong. Anyone else have any problem like this ? Oh, and don’t eat anything with bread while driving it will abort.

  49. #49 |  Miguel | 

    You know it isn’t like they are requiring these devices for driving with a blinker out. They are requiring yose with a past of drinking and driving to prove they are sober to get back behind the wheel. And the understanding of interlock devises by all of you combined is lacking at best.

    It wouldn’t have reduced fatalities in several states if it worked as bad as you all say. Have beer and relax, don’t drink and drive and it won’t ever be a part of your lives.