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Ignition Interlock Truth Vs. Myth and FAQ's


1. The Ignition Interlock device drained the battery.  The device draws less than 1/4 of one amp when not in operation and it draws half of one amp when it is preparing for a test. This is minimal drain on the battery of a properly functioning vehicle's electrical system. The device will not drain the battery to the point where it will not start unless the vehicle is not started for approximately 10 consecutive days. This period is shorter if the electrical system is not functioning properly, such as poor alternator output or dead cells in the vehicle battery. These symptoms are common in vehicles 5 years and older. In such cases, the vehicle would have battery problems with or without an Interlock device. Just as tires on a vehicle wear out with use, so do batteries and alternators - and they are considered standard maintenance items for proper vehicle upkeep.  We encourage clients to start their vehicles on a regular basis so they maintain a charged battery. Keep in mind, the court order states the device should be installed in the vehicle most often used. If the vehicle sits unused for extended periods, the client may be driving another vehicle that is not equipped with Interlock.

2. Cigarette smoke and snuff cause the device to fail. Clients are instructed to always take a few deep breaths before blowing into the device if they are smokers. Cigarette smoke does not affect the alcohol specific devices; however smoke should never be blown directly into any device.

3. Gasoline at the service station causes the device to fail.  Normal refueling at the gas station will NOT create a failure. Gasoline in high concentration will not register enough to be a fail on an alcohol specific device.

4. Perfume, hairspray and after-shave colognes cause the device to fail. Most perfumes and colognes contain alcohol, but the device will not react to it in heavy concentrations.

5. Mouthwash/spray causes the device to fail. Mouthwash and sprays usually contain up to 30% alcohol and will definitely react as alcohol in all Interlock devices. Non-alcohol mouthwash is available, and all Interlock users should use this mouthwash. The alcohol concentration level can register as high as .250 but will immediately dissipate within a fifteen (15) minute timeframe due to being mouth alcohol only, quicker if the mouth is rinsed with water. Clients are always instructed to rinse their mouths out with water before every test.

6. Chocolate mints, Altoids, Dentyne and' other gums cause the device to fail. Alcohol filled chocolates will register a fail; however, the alcohol in the chocolate will dissipate in 3 minutes

7. Cinnamon Rolls and Don’ts make my device fail. The sugar and the active yeast can combine to create a low level alcohol fail some of the time. However, as with cigarette smoke or mouthwash, a second test will indicate a drop or a completely clean test. Rinsing the mouth with water after eating and before blowing into the device will eliminate a fail. Clients should ALWAYS rinse their mouth with water before taking a test

8. The device just aborts and I cannot start my vehicle. The majority of all aborts are caused by improperly blowing into the device. If the aborting continues, the client should always call the Smart Start, Inc. Service Center for advice.

9. My friend or girlfriend blew and they were drinking. The defendant is informed that they are responsible for all tests recorded on the vehicle device.

10.  I do not have a vehicle; or I just sold my vehicle. You must have a vehicle registration checked. As an alternative, the judge can order electronic monitoring or home alcohol monitoring if the defendant does not have a vehicle. How did he/she get a DWI? How did the defendant get to probation? Have you seen anyone with the offender who was driving?

11. My engine stopped due to the device. OR What if it shuts the vehicle down in a bad part of town?    The device is designed to prevent the vehicle from starting if a breath test is not passed. There is only one wire interrupted for the installation of the Ignition Interlock device and it serves no other purpose than to send the signal to the starter to start the vehicle once the test is passed. If the individual fails a test while driving, it simply records a. violation; it does not shut down the vehicle.

12. I only had one, beer, glass of wine or one cocktail.  If one drink is consumed one hour or more prior to startup, the average person will pass the test. Alcohol is normally metabolized at the rate of 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. It should be noted that size, gender and several other factors play a key role in determining the body's absorption of alcohol. There is no single formula that can be used for everybody in determining how much he or she can drink before they are affected by the alcohol.

13. I can start my vehicle without taking a test. This can only be accomplished by a deliberate means of circumventing the device. This would be considered tampering and would be recorded by the device as a start violation.

14. What does anti-circumvention mean? This is a generic term for features designed to make tampering with the device more difficult. Some anti-circumvention features include hum tone, rolling-retests and the ability to detect power disconnects.

15. The rolling retest is dangerous. The rolling retest is programmed to ask for a test within 5 to 15 minutes after initial start up of the vehicle and then rand01Dly thereafter about every 45 minutes. Once the device requests the test, the client has six (6) minutes to respond. The test does not require eye contact with the device' and the six (6) minutes allows adequate time to pullover if the client feels more comfortable doing so.

16. The device is not very accurate. All Interlock devices must be certified to meet NTHSA specifications for accuracy and dependability and often by each State's specs as well. When properly calibrated the devices are accurate enough to determine the presence of alcohol and its concentration. The device cannot be used to determine if a client is "legally" intoxicated because the test is unsupervised. Some of the evidentiary breath testing equipment used by the police departments actually utilizes a fuel cell sensor as an additional means of verifying test results. Interlocks with fuel cell sensors are accurate. 

17. Anyone can blow into the device. I only have one vehicle in our family. All family members must be trained to use the device, however the client is responsible for any "positives)) and all readings registering on the monthly data logs. Yes, anyone can blow, but they must be able to make the hum tone and pass a test at a level determined by state requirements, and they must also submit to the rolling retests. 

18. It costs too much.  The device costs approximately $2.50 per day. The cost is at the expense of the offender. Cigarettes cost $3.50 or more per pack. The average amount spend on alcohol per day by the offender is $16.00. They spend 30% of their monthly salary on alcohol.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Can others besides the participant drive the Interlock-equipped vehicle?

A:  Yes, however any intended driver must take and pass a breath test in order to start the vehicle.  All other drivers within the family must be trained to use the device.

Q:  What happens if the vehicle stalls in traffic?

A:  The Interlock device has a stall protect grace period, which permits the participant to restart the vehicle without having to conduct another breath sample. 

Q:  If the device malfunctions, will it shut off the vehicle?

A:  No the device has no means of interrupting operation of the vehicle once it is started.

Q:  Will the requirements to take a “rolling retest” cause the driver to take his/her eyes off the road causing a hazardous situation?

A:  No, when the Interlock device signals for a retest, the participant has six (6) minutes to provide the sample, providing enough time to pull over safely to the side of the road.  There are no buttons to push: the participant must only breathe into the device to complete the breath sample.  This is much safer than using a cell phone or tuning the car stereo.

Q:  Will installation of the interlock device damage the vehicle?

A:  The Interlock device is only connected to the wiring of the vehicle under the dashboard.  At completion of the program, wiring is restored to safe conditions. 

Q:  What is the participant uses mouthwash and the mouthwash has an alcohol base.

A:  Alcohol is alcohol.  If the participant does not allow sufficient time time for the alcohol to dissipate from his/her mouth FAIL will register in the memory.  We encourage all participants to rinse their mouths with water before every test.  Non-alcohol based mouthwash is available and all Interlock users are encouraged to use this mouthwash. 

Q:  What if the participant is taking a medication with and alcohol base?

A:  Again, alcohol is alcohol.  If the participant BAC is over the preset level, the participant will not be allowed to start the vehicle.

Q:  Can someone else take the test to start the vehicle for the driver?

A:  Yes, however that person or another sober individual must ride in the vehicle because the device  will randomly ask for a “rolling retest”.  If a test is not taken or the test is failed, the device will log a violation and the alarm horn will honk until the vehicle is turned off.  Further most states have laws allowing for fines and/or jail time for individuals assisting in the circumvention of Interlock devices.

Q:  Can someone us a balloon or other air sources to mimic human breath?

A:  No.  Currently available devices have anti-circumvention techniques; such as hum tone monitoring, which cause the Interlock to abort fake breath samples.

Q:  What happens when the Interlock equipped vehicle needs repair?

A:  Participants are informed that they need to contact the Smart Start, Inc center before having their vehicle serviced.  This is necessary in the event the repair shop has questions about the Interlock device.  Documentation must be provided if the power to the vehicle is interrupted as the device will record the power disconnect and reconnection.

Q:  Will the device lose all memory if the battery is disconnected?

A: No.  The device has back-up lithium battery to protect the data log in memory.

Q:  Can the device be affected by RF signals?

A:  No, RF will not interfere with the operation of the Interlock device.

Q:  How often does the Interlock device need calibration checks? 

A:  Typically, every 30 to 60 days, depending on state laws.

Q:  Can a vehicle be “Hot Wired” to start without a breath test?

A:  Yes.  However, this is considered tampering and would be recorded by the device as a start violation and the Interlock will activate an early service recall.  The device will detect that the vehicle has been started without a valid breath test and require a breath sample.

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