Iowa is Putting Cameras on Ignition Interlocks. Here’s Why That’s Good.

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs)- or car breathalyzer devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – have been part of Iowa’s anti-drunk driving arsenal for more than two decades. The requirement, for repeat drunk drivers and some first offenders, has helped lower the rate of alcohol-related road fatalities in the state. A new regulation will place cameras on ignition interlocks for added security.

How Interlock Cameras Work

Cameras on ignition interlocks take photos when the device is used. The cameras ensure that the one ordered to use the interlock – the driver – is the one who is breathing into it.

Interlock Data Monitoring – The Vital Link

Many people are not aware of how a well-designed interlock program works. These are the steps:

  1. The ignition interlock is installed on an offender’s vehicle. He or she must breathe into the device to start the vehicle, and must take tests periodically while driving to ensure that no alcohol has been drunk afterwards.
  2. A camera photographs the driver taking the test. The photo and the test are time-coded.
  3. If the driver has been drinking, the vehicle won’t start. Several tries are usually allowed, each with a longer waiting period. After a set number of fails, the vehicle is disabled and the device must be reset.
  4. Data from the interlock device, including passes, fails, driving times and the photos, are downloaded and checked by monitoring authorities periodically (usually once a month).
  5. If fails or tampering is detected, the offender can be arrested. Asking another person to use the interlock is a form of tampering, and is a misdemeanor in Iowa, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000

Why Interlocks Work

Some people think that interlocks are too easy to circumvent, precisely because of the the possibility that a misguided friend could be called in to take the test. But the vast majority of interlock users comply with the requirements and get through their interlock period with no problems. Think about it – would you help a friend drive drunk and risk arrest – or a crash – yourself?

Cameras are another advance in ignition interlock technology to ensure the person driving the vehicle is the one who provides the breath sample.  Iowa has joined a growing list of states using this requirement.