Is An Ignition Interlock Really a Punishment?

You sometimes hear people say that the ignition interlock in their car is a “punishment” for a DUI conviction. They consider the device part of the DUI package: a fine, a stay in jail, perhaps an impounded vehicle, and now an ignition interlock device, or IID,  to install and learn to use.

Ignition Interlock DeviceTo many drivers, having to blow into the device every time they drive feels like a punishment.

But in fact, the purpose of an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, is not to punish. The device has one purpose only: to prevent alcohol-related road accidents. It treats all drivers of a vehicle equally, demanding that they breathe into a mouthpiece for a few seconds before starting the engine.

Why use an interlock at all? Why not just punish offenders instead? Research has shown that impaired drivers are hard to keep off the road. License suspensions don’t work – 50% to 70% of drivers continue to drive on a suspended license – and while educational campaigns do help, they only work on people who are ready to receive the message that you shouldn’t drink and drive.

Some An ignition interlock is a safety device that keeps you on the roadpeople aren’t ready to take that message to heart, and instead choose to drink and drive. The law considers that choice serious enough to merit immediate action.

Ignition interlocks have been found to be the solution.  As long as the device is on the car, the choice to drink and drive – always a bad choice – is removed.

Most people get used to the interlock quickly. The procedure of testing and doing rolling re-tests is not hard to learn. It becomes an automatic task like fastening seat belts.

And like a seat belt, an ignition interlock is not a punishment – it’s a safety device. If you’ve been convicted of drunk driving, it’s the best friend you have, because it allows you to keep driving, working, going to school, and otherwise lead a normal life, while keeping you and everyone else on the road safe.