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This is a breath alcohol ignition interlock device for an individual’s vehicle.

More specifically it is a device with a hand-held sensor attached to the electrical system of your car that requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting the car. It measures the Breath Alcohol Content (BAC) in your exhalation. If this device detects alcohol above a pre-set limit determined by your state, (in Florida it is .08) your vehicle will not start. The device will also require you perform periodic breath tests (sometimes while you are driving) called a rolling retest to ensure that you stay below that pre-set limit in order to continue driving your vehicle.

So how does one get one of these devices?

In the Keys we typically see these devices installed in cars as part of a requirement of a Tier Two DUI Diversion Program called Back on Track or as part of the sentence in a DUI plea as a means to retain one’s driving privileges. It is usually required for a period of 3 months.

In case you are wondering, a Tier Two DUI is defined by breath/blood average of .15 or higher OR refusal to submit to a breath, blood or urine test.

For starters, the device must be installed and uninstalled by an authorized service center.
The installation typically takes 2 hours and requires a full training session to become familiarized with the operation of the device.
Although they claim the installation does not harm the vehicle, my friend’s dashboard has a large gash on it as a result of the pulling, prodding and maneuvering done to get the device installed.

It requires periodic calibration, once or twice per month which requires another trip to the authorized service center and the costs associated with that can be up to $122.00 per month, or about $2 per day.

Failure to take the device in for regularly scheduled calibration will result in a lockout of the system and will require that your vehicle be towed to the authorized service center.

Also I would like to mention my friend’s dashboard now has a very large and noticeable gash on it as a result of the installation.

If you blow into it when you are over the set limit, your vehicle won’t start and if this device worked as it is supposed to, that actually would be a good thing.

However, I am here to report my personal experience with this device when I assisted a friend with his interlock device when it malfunctioned, which apparently is something that happens quite often.  He was out of town for work for a couple of weeks and returned to town to drive the car with the device in it to the authorized service center for calibration. He didn’t have a drop to drink and yet the device malfunctioned and he could not start his car.  He called his neighbors to assist thinking he was operating the device incorrectly.  The instructions I came across on the Internet were to blow into the mouthpiece until you hear a humming sound and then you suck the air back in for another minute.

Over a 3 hour period, I myself tried and then I watched numerous people change the mouthpiece and blow in the device so the car would start. Each time the device would beep and the car alarm would sound.

Eventually the car was towed to the authorized service dealer and there went another $165 dollars to do so.
I am writing this to share what a arduous and costly device this is.. on top of the other expenses that accompany a DUI.

Please think twice before drinking and driving; drink responsibly with a designated driver or take a cab. This will not only save lives, it will save you from the  embarrassment of a DUI arrest, frustration, and lots of money in attorney’s fees, court costs, supervision fees, etc…

Plus I hope you never need to see one of these up close, EVER.  ~Maria Protopsaltis