The Philadelphia DUI Law Blog

An Alternative Solution to Ignition Interlock: Everyone Has One

Previously, we reported that the Senate was trying to add funding to a highway bill that would compensate states if they adopt laws that require first time offenders to install ignition interlock devices into their cars. In addition to that provision, there was apparently millions in funding for research on passive detection systems in cars that could also detect alcohol, reports Politico.

The way these systems would work is much like an ignition interlock device, except the driver would not have to blow into a machine. The car would have sensors built in that could detect alcohol on the breath, or could detect alcohol through the skin. If a BAC reading over the limit were found, the car would not start up.

A non-obtrusive device, such as a touch sensor, could prevent drunk driving while not having the social stigma of a full-blown ignition interlock device.

Parts of the restaurant and bar industry are, understandably or not, unhappy. Although the research is being done to allow this as a dealer installed option, the slippery-slope argument is already being made that these will become standard in all cars. Moreover, if the BAC detection is set low enough, or has a high enough error rate, casual drinking outside of the home could plummet.

Congress has passed a short-term emergency highway-funding bill while they continue to debate over whether to include this research provision and the other funding provision that requires IIDs for first time offenders. Both chambers have provisions in their bills that require IIDs for first-timers, whereas only the Senate has provisions for research.

It remains to be seen if the two houses can reconcile the differences between the bills and whether either or both provisions will survive. Even if they cannot come to a solution in the short-tern, the similarities in the bills do indicate the direction that Congress is heading.

As for the device itself, if the only downside is that people have to arrange a designated driver ahead of time, then there is no downside. These devices would be non-intrusive enough to prevent drunk driving and thousands of deaths every year, while not screaming to the world, “I’m a convicted drunk driver!”

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