How Ignition Interlock Data Helped Catch a Repeat Drunk Driver

interlock monitoring data showing repeat drunk driver activityIn 2010 Alexander Peder drove drunk and killed two teens in Washington State. He was already a repeat drunk driver at the time, with two DUI arrests on his record, but both of those previous instances had been pleaded down to lesser charges, which was perhaps why he was on the road. After serving more than 6 years in prison, Peder was released on condition that he use an ignition interlock –a car breathalyzer device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Ignition Interlock Monitoring Saves Lives

When people hear about a repeat drunk driver being required to install an ignition interlock, they imagine ways that the offender might try to circumvent the device. Most of them – balloons, hair dryers, having a friend start the car – are not possible thanks to improving technology which requires a human to take the test, and requires the driver to keep re-testing periodically while driving.

Another way one might try to “get around” the interlock is to use a different vehicle. However, Peder’s case shows how this doesn’t work either. Data from the device – starts, stops, the results of breath tests – is recorded and sent to monitoring authorities every month in Washington State. The monitors saw that Peder wasn’t using his car very often – the tests showed suspiciously few starts – they alerted Washington State Patrol, who staked out Peder’s house and caught him using another vehicle.

Why Interlocks Do What 24/7 Cannot

As a result of his infraction, Peder is now back on 24/7 alcohol monitoring, but he also has to use an ignition interlock. This is as it should be. The 24/7 monitoring, which requires offenders to check in twice a day for alcohol testing, is a good way to get offenders to deal with alcohol problems and stick to their treatment responsibilities. However, 24/7 can’t stop someone from leaving the testing center, having some drinks, and driving. According to the judge who reinstated Peder’s alcohol monitoring, Peder had a history of skipping tests.

Ignition Interlocks are designed to make roads safer. They prevent most people from drinking and driving outright. And when a determined offender tries to bypass the interlock by using another vehicle, the monitoring kicks in and reveals that fact to the authorities.

Repeat Drunk Drivers and Ignition Interlocks

Drunk driving, and particularly the persistence of a repeat drunk driver, is a stubborn problem, but not an insurmountable one. Over the years technology has made great progress in keeping intoxicated persons from getting behind the wheel. The more people are aware of the advantages of ignition interlocks, the more support the devices will have when it comes time to strengthen anti-DUI legislation. And that support is vital, because no other device can specifically track an offender’s driving and keep repeat drunk drivers from taking to the road and endangering lives.