Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices for First Offenses Bad Idea

A police officer holds the breath test machine for a suspect to blow into with a police car in the background. *The police officer was blurred on purpose.

San Diego Defenders: Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Device

Law Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices for First Offenses Bad Idea

The California Senate just passed a bill that would make it mandatory for anyone convicted of a first time DUI to have to get an ignition interlock device put in their car.  The action was hailed by MADD and similar lobbyists.

I wonder if anyone in Sacramento is considering all the implications of this.

Judges in California already have the authority to order the ignition interlock device to be put in a DUI convict’s vehicle.  If a particular case and defendant warrant the ignition interlock device (referred to as an IID in court), the law already allows for this.  With the new proposed legislation, everyone who gets convicted of a DUI would have to.

The reality is that the vast majority of drunk drivers do not reoffend.  The embarrassment of getting arrested, taken to jail, going to court, taking a class for three to nine months and paying well over $2,000.00 in fines (more than most felonies), not to mention insurance costs, are enough to keep someone from doing it again.  An IID is just piling on them.

Economic Impact

These things aren’t free.  It can cost $150.00 to get it installed and another $50.00 to $100.00 per month to monitor and maintain the IID.  If the mandatory period is going to be six months, that can be upwards of $750.00 more.  Many people cannot afford that.  What will happen if they cannot afford it?  If it continues the way it is now, they will be banned from driving and forced to sell all their vehicles

Furthermore, this is going to cost jobs and tax funds from those jobs.  To be specific, you are not ordered by the Judge to simply have an ignition interlock device installed on your car.  You are also ordered not to operate any vehicle that is not equipped with the device.  That means, if you drive a company car, you are fired.


Unlike the vast majority of people who do not reoffend, there are some people who repeatedly drink and then drive and don’t care.  The IID will not stop them.  They can just drive a car that doesn’t have the device.  Proponents would argue there would be a deterrent affect since there would be penalties for driving a vehicle without the IID in it.  Well, if the person cares so little that they are drinking and driving any way, were the penalties go up for subsequent offenses, the additional penalties are not going to make any difference.

Creates a New Danger

In a time when we are learning more and more about distracted driving. Think of cell phones and texting while driving, having the ignition interlock periodically require a test while you are driving is a problem.  While the machine gives you a little time to pull over if you can, just the machine going off and bothering the driver will cause accidents.  When we know from statistics that using your cell phone while you drive is actually more dangerous than driving at 0.08%, forcing more distracted driving seems like a bad idea.

MADD and other groups will point to stats from other States that show a decrease in DUI crashes and fatalities where these laws have already been passed.  The problem with that is most of the States who have passed these laws did so right after a high profile DUI death when awareness of the dangers of drunk driving would have been spiking.  There is no real way to know if the IID’s or the publicity caused the decrease.

When it is all said and done, while new technologies can be useful, it doesn’t mean we have to use them every time.  If the simple fact that there are fewer DUI’s because of ignition interlock devices is good enough to justify the proposed law, then EVERY car sold should have them.