Virginia: Ignition Interlocks Will Also Use Cameras

ignition interlock camera from LifeSafer
Ignition interlock camera in use (LifeSafer)

Ignition interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. It’s a great system that has saved many lives.

One objection is sometimes raised: what is to prevent a person from having a friend – and we use the word loosely – from breathing into the device to help a drunk driver start the ignition?

Now Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe has handled the issue, by approving a measure requiring an ignition interlock camera on every vehicle in the interlock program.

Many states use cameras in addition to the ignition interlocks as an added measure of security. When the breath test starts, a small windshield-mounted camera snaps a photo of the person taking the test, effectively preventing “curb service.” The photos taken by the ignition interlock camera are saved in the device and downloaded with the rest of the test data that is sent to monitoring authorities every month. If a photo reveals that an offender has had an accomplice take the test, he or she can be fined, jailed, or have his or her interlock period extended.

Mandatory in some states, optional in others

ignition interlock camera photo
An ignition interlock camera ensures that the driver is the one taking the breath test.

Even in states that do not require an ignition interlock camera, a judge will often order one anyway, and for good reason. The interlock is a preventive device. It is not there to punish, but to protect. As long as the device is on the vehicle, a sober person must deliver breath tests at regular intervals in order for the car or truck to function. And as long as there is an ignition interlock camera, no misguided accomplice can do the testing.

In truth, most drivers in an ignition interlock program use the device correctly, without cheating. Most people have a hard time finding a sober friend to sit beside them during drives and taking breath tests. But an ignition interlock camera is useful for catching the rare offender who tries to cheat – and it’s a reminder to others that the tests are being monitored, so it doesn’t pay to try.

The new camera regulation was developed by Commission on VASAP (Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program). VASAP is Virginia’s statewide program for enforcing drunk driving laws, managing and adjudicating cases, and educating the public about the dangers of impaired driving.

Cameras are an important component of a strategy to prevent DUI recidivism and save lives. If your state does not require an ignition interlock camera for every drunk driving offender with an interlock, contact your legislators and ask them to strengthen the laws that protect you against drunk drivers on the road.