Next Step for California DUIs: Ignition Interlock Cameras

ignition interlock camera takes photo of testA recent blog from a California law firm noted a distressing event: a Pennsylvania woman driving a car equipped with an ignition interlock had her 8-year-old daughter blow into the device to hide the fact that the mother had been drinking.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has consumed alcohol. The device requires one to blow into it to start the vehicle, and then again at intervals to ensure that the driver doesn’t drink after starting to drive. This is the “rolling re-test.” The Pennsylvania driver in question brought along her child to perform the re-test.

Opponents of ignition interlocks and people who are resigned to the current prevalence of drunk driving point this out as an inherent flaw in the device. The author of the post appears to be neither against interlocks nor tolerant of drunk driving, but she is misinformed. She writes, “Studies on interlock devices do show that they help to reduce DUI, but this is a fundamental flaw in the design. Hopefully, manufacturers can find a method to ensure that the person with the device is the one who blew into it before the car is started.”

LifeSafer ignition interlock camera
LifeSafer Ignition Interlock with Camera

In fact, these devices do have a feature to ensure that the one blowing into the device is the correct person: ignition interlock cameras. Devices such as LifeSafer FC100 and FC250 include cameras which take a photo of the test as it is administered. The photo is added to the data that authorities review, and if it’s found that another person has been taking the test, immediate steps can be taken.

Here’s the problem: despite the fact that the cameras have proven that they work, many states – including California – do not mandate them. This oversight allows incidents like the one that happened recently in Pennsylvania (another state that does not mandate cameras). It’s pretty rare – most drivers do not sink to such depths as to force a child to do their breath test and risk a child endangerment charge – but it can happen.

The answer is a well-administered interlock program, including ignition interlock cameras, to ensure that roads and streets in California are as safe as they can be. If you’re in California, you have a legislator who’s waiting to hear from you about this issue. Let him or her know that you want authorities to have photographic proof that DUI offenders are using  their ignition interlocks properly.