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Should Ignition Interlock Devices Be Standard Equipment?

Mon, Oct 22, 2012

Criminal Law

Ignition Interlock SystemDrunk driving deaths are an epidemic. Intoxicated motorists kill thousands of motorists every year on American roads. Courts often order repeat offenders to have an ignition interlock device in their motor vehicles. These devices require an individual to provide a breath sample before the vehicle can start. Why are these devices not in common use? There are quite a few reasons why ignition interlock devices are not standard on motor vehicles.

The Benefit of Standard Ignition Interlock Devices

Requiring an individual to blow into a device to start the engine ensures that at least one sober person is in the vehicle. If the driver is by himself or herself, this helps to reduce the possibility that he or she will drive while intoxicated. The devices will randomly demand another breath sample. According to our Walnut Creek DUI attorney, there is some evidence that ignition interlock devices reduce the incidence of collisions, but at present, these devices are only installed in vehicles operated by individuals who already drive while intoxicated.

The Drawbacks of Standard Ignition Interlock Devices

One major problem with ignition interlock devices is the ease with which the driver can bypass the device. Ignition interlock devices require someone with alcohol-free breath to function; this person does not have to be the driver. Any passenger or bystander interested in making a few dollars can activate the device. This is a concern of existing programs and is why some courts will simply revoke a driver’s license instead of mandating such a system; an interlock device only prevents driving under the influence if the driver is alone.

Disabling these devices is also possible. If a particular driver is under court supervision, the legal system can inspect the device for tampering. If these devices become standard equipment, manually monitoring the individual vehicles will be impossible. A monitoring system would require electronic safeguards against removing the device or activating it without any breath. Failing to monitor such systems would lead to the devices being bypassed regularly, thus failing to benefit the public.

Such a widespread electronic monitoring system raises questions of civil liberties and the rights of motorists to be free from infringements of their right to travel. Having the government mandate electronic surveillance over all drivers would bring a costly new bureaucracy for the taxpayers to fund and raise privacy concerns. Avoiding excessive government involvement in domestic affairs is crucial to a free society, and politicians who vote for such mandates may be subject to a voter backlash.

The widespread use of ignition interlock systems also raises public health concerns. Relatively few motorists drive only their own vehicles. Borrowing and lending vehicles to or from friends, family members, colleagues, valets, repair shops, or any other individual authorized to operate that vehicle will involve those individuals accessing the same interlock device. With the bodily fluids from dozens of people on one device, various illnesses ranging from the common cold to serious infections will be passed around from user to user.

Most people understand that driving under the influence is unwise and dangerous. However, emergencies can call for extraordinary measures. If a moderately intoxicated individual must drive a motor vehicle either to escape from a dangerous situation or take someone to the emergency room, the danger of not driving the vehicle can outweigh the danger of driving. A vehicle that is immobile in an emergency can cost an individual his or her life.

Finally, even if all the concerns above are addressed, ignition interlock devices only detect the presence of alcohol. Driver impairment can stem from drug use, sleep deprivation, or inattentiveness. Focusing on alcohol ignores the core of the danger, which is reduced attentiveness and diminished reflexes.

These are just some of the reasons why ignition interlock devices should not be standard on automobiles. Any potential benefit will be negligible in relation to the costs and negative aspects of such a program.

Chris Bennett is an automotive enthusiast and freelance writer for the The Law Offices of Johnson and Johnson. DUI prevention is important to ensure public safety, but we must ensure it does not violate our constitutional right to privacy. If you are looking for a Walnut Creek DUI attorney, The Law Offices of Johnson and Johnson are dedicated to providing premier legal representation for all manner of DUI cases.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/komunews/3676161484/

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