Seattle Washington drivers convicted of DUI are regularly ignoring court orders to have breath testing equipment (Ignition Interlocks) installed in their vehicles. Some 28,000 Washington drivers have been convicted of DUI. Under Washington law, even first-time offenders are required to have interlocks installed. Only about 4,400 of the devices have been installed, however. This figure matches the percentage of drivers actually having the devices installed in other states. With about eighty percent of DUI offenders failing to comply, the current national push for interlocks may be misguided.
An ignition interlock measures the alcohol in a driver’s breath. If his breath shows a BAC below a State mandated limit, he can start the car. Most states then require him to test every twenty or thirty minutes. If he fails to test or has a BAC over the limit, the vehicle’s engine stops running. There are also ways to cheat the device. Another person, presumably sober, could blow into the device or a DUI offender could even have the device installed and then borrow or buy another car.
Between the time a driver is ordered to install an interlock and when he tries to regain his license, there is no state agency that monitors whether the device has been installed. An interlock offender is usually caught through a stop for another offense. A violation of an interlock order is a “gross misdemeanor,” punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, the same as for driving with a suspended license.
While drivers can ignore a court’s interlock order, they must show proof of installation in order to get their suspended licenses back. Many DUI offenders haven’t returned to the DOL to reinstate their licenses. Perhaps, orders for interlocks are leading people to simply drive without a license.