NHTSA wants new alcohol detection method for drivers with DWI convictions

Depending upon the specific circumstances of a case, a driver in Texas who is convicted for driving while intoxicated may be required to install an ignition interlock device in his car as part of his sentence. An IID is a standard device that is utilized by other states as well in an effort to avoid repeat offenses by convicted DWI drivers.

It was recently reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently advocating for a new system to be utilized in place of the standard ignition interlock devices. The call is in response to the first increase in highway fatalities since 2005. According to the Associated Press, 33,561 people lost their lives on American highways in 2012. The push for a new alcohol detection system is being advocated as a way to combat the increase in traffic deaths.

How do ignition interlock devices work?

The currently used ignition interlock device is a two-part system that includes a component similar in size to the average cellphone. This piece mounts directly onto the dashboard of a vehicle and it is into this device that a driver breathes for a breath analysis.

The other component of the system is a microchip that is installed into the vehicle's ignition. Information from the breath test is sent from the mounted device to this microchip and either allows the ignition to be started or prevents it from being started based upon the results.

In addition to a test when first getting in a vehicle, drivers are subject to what are referred to as rolling retests. This means that once in motion, the system will indicate that a follow up test should be taken. This happens at random intervals while in transit but roughly every 15 minutes.

If a driver fails a rolling retest, the vehicle cannot be forced to stop but lights will flash and the horn will beep continuously until the driver voluntarily stops and turns off the ignition.

Who must use an IID?

The guidelines for installation of an ignition interlock device in Texas include:

  • All drivers with multiple DWI convictions must install an IID in every vehicle they own for one year after license reinstatement
  • All drivers convicted of any DWI with a blood alcohol content of .16 percent or greater must install an IID in every vehicle they own for one year after license reinstatement
  • All drivers with multiple DWI convictions may be required to install an IID in any vehicle they operate for a period of 10 years

Drivers with only one offense and a BAC below .16 can still be ordered to install the IID at the court's discretion.

Potential changes and impact on drivers

The new type of alcohol detection system is simpler to use and less intrusive. Drivers only need to put their hands on the steering wheel and press a button to utilize it. It is unclear whether or not the NHTSA will be successful in getting the new system implemented or when the change may take effect.

Drivers who face DWI convictions should ensure they have adequate legal representation when initiating their DWI defense. The right help can make a difference in the ultimate penalties that are assessed.