investigation discovered that IIDs also cause numerous accidents.There is little doubt that ignition interlock devices (IIDs) have prevented many alcohol-related automobile accidents. However, back in December, a New York Times
IIDs are mechanical devices installed into one’s vehicle in which s/he has to blow into a tube, and if the mechanism senses alcohol, the vehicle won’t start. Per the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, in Minnesota, nearly 8,100 IIDs were installed at an annual cost of $1,000 per vehicle. The total number of IIDs in Minnesotans’ vehicles that same year was 12,779—a ten percent increase from the previous year.
Despite many studies demonstrating that IIDs do, in fact, reduce alcohol-related accidents to some degree, there are just as many showing that IIDs are responsible for accidents as well.
Despite their great potential to keep drunk drivers off the road, problems do arise. Once the driver “passes” the initial test and is able to start his/her vehicle, they are then subject to rolling retests. These retests occur at random intervals while the car is moving in which the driver is prompted to blow into the tube again. These make it more difficult for drunk drivers to cheat the system—such as having a sober person initially blow to get the car started.
The device will randomly beep, thus informing the driver s/he needs to pick up the handset and blow into again. If s/he fails, then the IID will honk the horn, flash the lights, and make other alerts until the driver pulls over and turns off the vehicle. In no way does the device interfere with the vehicle’s operation.
After the driver stops the vehicle, s/he can retest his/her breath to permit normal vehicle operation.
However, several studies discovered an alarming number of serious and fatal crashes caused by these rolling retests when the driver’s attention was diverted from the road to the device. Even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) guidelines started out requiring drivers to stop their vehicles before the retests, nearly all vehicle manufacturers objected arguing that making a driver pull over is impractical and the rolling retests are safe.
Even across the country, there is little attention being directed to distracted driving due to IIDs. With the number of IIDs across the country having grown considerably from 133,000 to over 350,000 in the past decade with this number expected to increase even more especially with states—like Minnesota—requiring DWI offenders to install IIDs in their vehicles. Most states focus their distracted driving prevention efforts toward smartphones and texting with little regard for the distraction danger IIDs present.
To illustrate just a few serious accidents caused by distracted IID rolling retests, in Texas in 2017, a man who had been twice convicted of drunk driving had an IID installed in his vehicle. During a rolling retest, he dropped his interlock on the floor. So, he would have it in hand for the next retest, he reached down, fumbled for it, and struck a young woman who was backing out of her driveway. She died a week later. The man was sober; however, he pleaded guilty and received 18 years in prison.
In Pennsylvania, a driver performing a rolling retest blew so had he blacked out and hit a tree. In New Hampshire, another driver struck a telephone pole. In California, a man trying to do a rolling retest on a highway swerved across the dividing line and struck a vehicle, severely injuring one occupant and killing the other.