Published On: Wed, Mar 20th, 2019

What Should You Know About an Interlock Device?

You may hope your car never has to have an interlock device, but in reality, you could be faced with this situation.

An interlock device is also called an interlock system. It’s a breathalyzer that’s installed in a car or vehicle to prevent someone from being able to turn their car on while they’re under the influence or intoxicated.

An interlock device is required to be installed in vehicles in some states if a person is convicted of an offense related to drunk driving.


You can also install an ignition interlock device voluntarily if you’re concerned about your decisions while you’re drinking and you want to protect yourself and other people.

The following are some things to know about an interlock device.

How Does It Work?

With an ignition interlock device, you install it in your car, so you then have to blow into a mouthpiece before starting the car. The device measures your Breath Alcohol Content. It connects to the ignition of a vehicle, and if the breath sample a driver provides is above the state limit, the car is unable to start.

If someone has one of these devices on their car, they provide breath samples throughout the trip, and the device then can provide a record if there are any violations.

How long someone is required to have one of these devices for a drunk driving conviction depends on the state—in some states, first offenders must have them for a year after their license suspension ends. Offenders who have more than one conviction are often required to have them installed for two years after the end of their license revocation or suspension.

One of these devices has to be installed by a certified installer. The person whose car it will be installed on is not allowed to handle the equipment either when it’s being installed or uninstalled. Installation usually takes around an hour, depending on the vehicle.

National Legislation

There has been a recent push for national laws regarding the use of interlock devices. Some in Congress are calling for them to be mandatory in all vehicles.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn has been one proponent of requiring these devices in all vehicles, saying that the fact that so many drunk driving accidents continue to happen is a clear reason to use the technology. There are more than 10,000 fatalities related to drunk driving every year.

Dingell passed something called the Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act, mandating interlock devices.

The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety has been working to develop technology that would keep cars from starting with easier-to-use technology, such as automatic measurementstaken as the driver breathes naturally. Similar technology is being tested on a small scale in vehicles in Virginia.

Automakers aren’t yet at a point where they’re going to be adding this technology to vehicles, however. Car companies also tend to be resistant to federal regulations regarding new requirements that could meet backlash from the public or lead their costs to manufacture cars to rise substantially.

Current Standards for Interlock Devices

Ignition interlocks are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These devices are required to pass tests at the state level.

A few other things to know about these devices include:

  • If you are required to have one of these devices installed to be able to drive, you can’t drive yourself to the installation appointment. Instead, you are required to get someone with a license to drive you. It’s important to understand all the applicable laws in your state to avoid having further legal complications or problems.
  • Some people wonder if they can get an interlock device installed on a motorcycle and the answer is typically no. Most states require that if you have a drunk driving conviction that you have a car with an interlock device, as opposed to a motorcycle.
  • Another common question is what happens if you blow into a device and it registers alcohol use. Along with the car not starting, there may also be a period of completelockout. If you have too many failed attempts, you may have to see the installer to unlock it.

Finally, if you have an interlock device, you shouldn’t have other people operate your vehicle. You should also keep a log of who does drive it if that ever is the case, and some of these devices require random retests. This means you have to submit a breath sample not only before starting your car but also while you’re driving.

Author: Susan Melony

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