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Best Ignition Interlock Device Hygiene Practices To Reduce COVID-19 Risk

Despite what some people might think, being convicted of driving under the influence is not a walk in the park.

By: Guest Contributor | Sep 2021


Once a court decides that someone is, indeed, a DUI offender, that person is bound to face penalties that include hefty fines, driver’s license suspension, and jail time. However, judges tend to be lenient toward first-time offenders. As long as their DUI (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol) case didn’t lead to injury or death, their chances of being sentenced to probation instead of serving time in jail are better.

While essentially a suspended jail sentence, probation is far from being a slap on the wrist. It may keep a DUI offender out of jail, but probation can also prove to be tough, since it requires them to follow certain conditions to keep themselves out of trouble. In many cases, those conditions include the installation of an ignition interlock device, the use of which requires strict hygienic practices, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. But first, let’s talk about the basics of an ignition interlock device, also referred to as an IID.

What An Ignition Interlock Device Is

When police officers stop drivers on suspicion of DUI, they often ask them to take breath samples using a device called a breathalyzer that measures blood alcohol concentration or BAC. An ignition interlock device or IID is, for all intents and purposes, also a breathalyzer. The main difference between a police officer’s handheld breathalyzer and an IID is that the latter is wired to a DUI offender’s car’s engine. The reason Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) are set up that way is to prevent DUI offenders with alcohol in their system from starting their car.

Components of A Standard Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device is usually made up of a handheld alcohol sensor unit, a mouthpiece that sticks out of it, and a relay cord directly connected to the ignition system of your car. Other IIDs may also come equipped with a camera, depending on requirements set by the state.

How To Use an Ignition Interlock Device

If you’re a DUI offender ordered by the court to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car, you need to be familiar with how it works, which is fairly simple:

  1. Turn the ignition to the “ON” position to power the IID.
  2. Once the handheld alcohol sensor unit is turned on, wait for it to say “blow,” then put the mouthpiece in your mouth, take a deep breath, and blow into it.
  3. Wait for the device’s analysis of the sample you provided.
  4. If the device’s screen shows a BAC lower than 0.02%, which is the limit states usually set for IID users, you can proceed to start your car. Conversely, a BAC of 0.02% or higher means you cannot start your vehicle.

Periodic “Rolling Retests”

The entire ignition interlock process doesn’t end with starting your car after the startup test. The initial breath test ensures that you don’t have alcohol in your system when you start your car. The random “rolling retests” that follow make sure that you stay sober for the duration of your drive. Rolling retests are essentially a repeat of the steps of the startup test, only this time, your ignition interlock device will remind you to do them when you’re already on the road.

Contrary to popular belief, an ignition interlock device will not automatically shut down your car’s engine when it’s time to do a rolling retest because that would be incredibly dangerous, especially if you’re right smack in the middle of the freeway. What it does is sound an alarm or flash an onscreen alert, which usually happens every seven to fifteen minutes, depending on the frequency set by your state. While most ignition interlock devices allow you to take random rolling retests while driving, the safest thing to do would be to pull over to provide a fresh breath sample.

Ignition Interlock Devices Are Data Recorders

Ignition interlock devices are mainly breathalyzers, but with other functionalities that include storing data about your use—or misuse—of the device. All of your IID data will be sent to your monitoring authority for evaluation.

Information that Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) record:

  • Your BAC levels for every test
  • Date and time of your startup tests and rolling retests
  • Results of your startup tests and rolling retests
  • Skipped rolling retests, if any
  • Missed periodic recalibrations, if any
  • Attempts to tamper with or remove your device

Follow Ignition Interlock Device Rules, Or Else

As a condition of probation, the use of ignition interlock devices is covered by rules set by law. These rules include strict adherence to rolling retests and periodic recalibrations, as well as refraining from tampering with the IID, among other things. You need to follow all IID rules to the letter. Violating any of these rules will be considered a violation of your probation, which could bring consequences that may include:

  • Temporary or permanent lockout for multiple failed startup tests and rolling retests
  • Ignition Interlock Device use period extension
  • Heavier fines
  • Removal from IID program
  • Enforcement of suspended jail sentence

The Costs That an Ignition Interlock Device Entails

All costs that come with being ordered to install an ignition interlock device in your car as part of your DUI probation will be yours to shoulder. Upon entering an ignition interlock program, you will need to lease a device from an IID company certified by the state. Installation fees may vary depending on your chosen IID company and your car’s make and model, but they usually hit the $50 to $150 mark. You will also have to pay monthly fees of roughly the same amount to cover your device’s monitoring and maintenance. When the time to remove it comes, you can expect to pay another $50 to $150 for the job. In many ways, an ignition interlock device can prove to be quite bothersome and expensive for a DUI offender using it. However, according to several studies, IIDs are also proving to be effective in reducing DUI recidivism and alcohol-related crashes.

Best Ignition Interlock Device Hygiene Practices To Reduce COVID-19 Risk

The fact that the use of an ignition interlock device involves putting one of its components into your mouth makes more thorough hygienic practices necessary, especially during COVID-19. Then again, with or without a global pandemic, you still need to keep your IID sanitary at all times.

Here are a few tips to help keep your IDD sanitary:

  • Use warm water and soap to clean your mouthpiece regularly. Make sure it’s completely dry before putting it back into the handheld unit.
  • Always wipe down the handheld unit and the relay cord with a disinfectant cloth.
  • Have extra mouthpieces ready to replace them whenever you need to.
  • Never get someone else to blow on the mouthpiece to start the car. Aside from increasing coronavirus contamination risk, it could also be considered tampering with the device. It’s cheating, especially if you’re doing it because you’ve had a few drinks and you want to drive anyway.

Ignition interlock devices are proving to be one of the most effective anti-drunk driving tools out there. Requiring a DUI offender to install the device in their car is a benefit to public safety in general.

About Lauren McDowell, Contributing Author

Lauren McDowell is the Content Marketing Strategist for Interlock Install, a Phoenix-based company that performs the installations, service appointments, and removals for ADS Interlock. When not writing, she attends book clubs and enjoys reading stories to her kids.

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