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Interlock Devices

Alcohol has proven to be statistically related to fatal automobile crashes many years ago. Studies have shown that even low doses of alcohol will impair one’s visual perceptions and reaction times.

And for the longest time, there seemed to be no sure-proof, accurate way for arresting officers to prove that a person had been drinking prior to getting behind the wheel other than based solely on one’s demeanor. In the cases of obvious intoxication, sure, but what about all the mild drinkers?

The earliest tests for measuring blood-alcohol content were based upon venous blood samples. And then the first breath-testing device, the “Breathalyzer,” was developed by Robert Borkenstein in 1954. And in more recent years, Interlock systems have been developed.

An interlock system is a device that measures Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) and prevents a car from starting if the operator has been drinking. This device requires drivers to blow into a Breathalyzer before starting their car (an obvious change in driver behavior). If the breath test system registers alcohol above the legal limit, the vehicle will not start.

This type of device sounds great for preventing people from driving after having had a few cocktails, but there are some negatives associated with them.

These systems currently being sold in the U.S. and around the world are visible interlock system devices. One that might exist in the family car creates an undeniable social stigma that not only the driver, but also the driver’s children and family, must deal with on a daily basis. One major problem with these visible interlock systems is that people won’t install them in their cars because of the social stigma associated with them.

Interlock devices have also been criticized because they require drivers to blow into the device before the car will start as well as after driving for a period of time, so drivers must be able to safely pull over and repeat the test when the machine tells them to. This isn’t practical or safe.

Interlock systems are not wholly reliable or accurate and often need to be recalibrated. They may work for some offenders in some contexts, but not for all offenders in all situations.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Nightlife Of Revelry

While a great idea and a device that has prevented many an intoxicated driver from getting behind the wheel, our American law enforcement has yet to come up with a sure-fire way to test and prove one’s degree of intoxication as an exact measure.