Annie’s Law is Fine. Some Critics Just Don’t Get Ignition Interlocks.

man using ignition interlockThe passage of Annie’s Law in Ohio is great news for the state’s drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. House Bill 388, which the governor recently signed, allows first OVI offenders to cut down their one-year driver’s license suspension period to 6 months by installing an ignition interlock device for the remaining half-year. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Many have campaigned in favor of the law. These include road safety advocates, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), law enforcement, and the family of Annie Rooney, a young attorney who was the victim of a drunk driving collision. The law is named after Rooney.

Since the passage of the law, one critic has spoken out about what he believes is a problem with the law. An Ohio attorney claims – incorrectly – that the law is unduly harsh for this reason: certain foods and drinks can cause false positives, which result in violations, which will send an offender to jail for the remainder of his or her suspension.

No, Eating a Pizza Will Not Put You in Jail

pizza-wont-trigger-false-positiveIt’s true that the residue of certain foods can ferment in the mouth, causing an interlock to register a small amount of alcohol during a breath test. The yeast in pizza dough, for example, can ferment. So can some fruit juices. Hand sanitizer and perfume also contain alcohol, so you need to be careful there as well.

These cases aren’t false positives – these are an example of the device doing its job. Just as a metal detector will detect a cellphone or belt buckle as well as a gun or a knife, an ignition interlock (or police breathalyzer) will detect alcohol no matter what the source.

But here’s the thing: you can rinse out your mouth, or wash your hands, and you’re good to go.

Ignition Interlock Providers Know Fermentation ≠ Violation!

When you blow a breath sample into the ignition interlock, the test data is recorded. If you register above the limit because of some food residue, you can rinse your mouth and try again a few minutes later. If you pass – as you should if you haven’t been drinking – you will not be reported to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This isn’t a violation – it’s just a contaminant-related fail, and it’s nothing to get worried about.

quote from ignition interlock technicianWe don’t send over anything except a true violation,” says Teresa Hayes, Ohio State Director at LifeSafer Ignition Interlock. “If a real alcohol reading stops a vehicle from starting, that will be obvious, and the violation will be sent to the BMV. But if it’s just a reading from food, there’s no problem.

So the contention of this attorney – you don’t have to be drinking to be reported to a violation – is wrong. Ignition interlock companies have been in the business of helping OVI offenders regain their driving privileges and get on with their lives for a long time. According to a recent MADD report, some 2.3 million incidences of drunk driving have been prevented by ignition interlocks, and studies keep coming out showing that states that adopt the devices – especially when they mandate the devices for all offenders as Ohio now does – experience a drop in alcohol-related road deaths.

So ignore the nay-sayers. Ohioans are safer than ever on the road, thanks to Annie’s Law. And any offender with an ignition interlock can carry a bottle of water to do the occasional rinse after a pepperoni supreme. It’s a small price to pay for the freedom to drive, and for the safety that ignition interlock devices bring to everyone in the state.