The Two Biggest Problems with Ignition Interlock Devices

If you were recently convicted on a DUI or DWI charge, you may have been ordered by the judge to install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) on any vehicles you own or operate. An IID is designed to prevent intoxicated people from operating motor vehicles, but there are a couple of major reasons why these devices often fail to protect drivers and pedestrians at all.

In many states, an IID is unique from other court-ordered electronic devices like ankle monitors in more ways than one. Typically, after being ordered to install an IID, the defendant is provided with information regarding various IID devices, their prices, and where the IID can be installed and serviced. However, it seems many such orders go entirely unheeded. Perhaps due to the independent nature of obtaining and servicing one’s own IID, many states have no method to ensure these orders are followed in conjunction with a hardship license situation, and therefore no means to enforce noncompliance. As a result, as many as half of all ordered IIDs are never purchased or installed. However, don’t take this as an invitation to do the same. If a court discovered you were noncompliant with your IID and ignored a judge’s order, the consequences could be dire. All the same, without better laws at the local and state level, multiple-time drunk drivers can slip through the cracks and cause more damage to property and people’s lives.

Even if an IID is properly installed and maintained, however, it still may not be efficient at stopping you from driving under the influence. A plethora of foods and household items have been shown to give false positives on IIDs, in some cases preventing perfectly sober people from operating their vehicles. While a comprehensive list would be unreasonably long, some of these items include: hand sanitizer, antibacterial soaps, cough syrup, windshield wiper fluid, sunscreen, insect repellent, gel deodorants, aftershave, cologne, perfume, shaving cream, electric razor cleaner, skin moisturizer, skin lubricant, makeup remover, nail polish remover, facial wipes, hand wipes, sanitary wet wipes, mouthwash, menthol cigarettes, mints, floor and glass cleaner, paint thinner, shoe polish, and many other common household products. But even if you steer entirely clear of all of these, you’ll also have to contend with false positives from food, including: non-alcoholic beer, alcohol-flavored foods, cooking spray, cooking spirits, flavor extracts including almond and vanilla, vinegar, liqueur chocolates, fruitcake, desserts “en flambe,” honey buns, bearnaise sauce, mousse, cherries jubilee, bananas foster, black forest cake, chocolate fondue, grasshopper pie, dijon mustard, chicken or veal marsala, apple walnut roll, raisin bread, white bread, English muffin, sourdough bread, doughnuts, crumpets, energy and protein bars, and many, many more.

As you can see, it need not be necessary that a given food actually contains an appreciable amount of alcohol, or any alcohol at all, to trip a false positive from an IID. Many people use these products or feed these foods to children without a second thought. The issue is not in these products’ safety but in the raw sensitivity of the sensors within an IID. Because IIDs are a law enforcement measure and not a scientific one, false positives are vastly preferred to false negatives, and so the devices are tuned to catch anyone and everyone who has consumed alcohol, even if they accidentally flag someone who hasn’t. It’s best to play it safe and consult your attorney and IID technician if you have any issues the functionality of your device.