High hopes for ignition interlock - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

High hopes for ignition interlock

Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – It is too early to tell how much the ignition interlock device will improve safety on Hawaii's roads, but in New Mexico, the state that served as a model for Hawaii's ignition interlock program, traffic related fatalities dropped by 28% after the ignition interlock law was passed.

Drunk driving law in Hawaii changed January 1, 2011.  Since then people arrested for the first time for driving under the influence of alcohol have had the opportunity to have an ignition interlock device installed instead of having their driver's license revoked for a full year.

Ignition interlock prevents people from starting their vehicles until they provide an alcohol free breath sample.  They must provide a sample before starting their vehicle and at random times while driving.

"The purpose of the random re-test for is to ensure that the person who got the vehicle started does not then start drinking after they've got the vehicle started," said Abram Garcia, Director of Operations for Smart Start, the company that has the contract with the state to provide ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers who opt to have the devices installed.

"When an individual is asked for a retest, it does give them six full minutes to take that retest," Garcia said.

Anyone who skips a retest is credited with a violation.  Testing positive for alcohol while trying to start the engine is also a violation.

"Once they accumulate a total of five violations, it does put them into a 72 hour lock-out period.  In that 72 hours they do have to bring it (vehicle and ignition interlock) into a service facility," Garcia added.

Data is downloaded at the service facility from a memory chip in the ignition interlock.  Appropriate law enforcement is informed of violations recorded by the device.

The interlock allows a blood alcohol level of up to .02.  It is not set for zero tolerance, but .02 is well below the legal limit to drive of .08.

Many people can consume one drink and still pass the interlock test.

Hawaii News Now tested the device.  An interlock was installed in a company vehicle.  An employee was able to start the vehicle after consuming one 12 ounce beer.  But after a second beer, the vehicle would not start.

You can see this demonstration by clicking on the corresponding video.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration endorses ignition interlock.  Studies have shown that while installed it reduces recidivism between 50% and 90%.

"It will save lives in the long run and that's what we hope to see in this state," said Carol McNamee, a founder of Mother's Against Drunk Driving in Hawaii.


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