Washington drunk drivers to be forced to use interlocks with cameras

Dec 28, 2012, 12:28 PM | Updated: 1:14 pm
New ignition interlock devices now include cameras to guarantee the person taking the test is the actual driver. (Image courtesy Lifesafer)
(Image courtesy Lifesafer)

Smile. Your ignition interlock device will now take your picture as you blow.

The Washington State Patrol believes too many drivers are using passengers, including children, to blow into the devices to get the cars started. So starting Jan. 1, all new devices will come with digital cameras. They will snap pictures of who’s blowing into the device so the state patrol can tell for sure who’s using them.

“We see it on a regular basis,” State Patrol Sergeant Ken Denton, who oversees the state’s interlock program, said. “How often? I can’t really put a number on that, but it is happening.”

Interlocks are required on the vehicles of those who’ve been accused or convicted of impaired driving. The machine requires a legal breath sample from the driver before allowing a car to start.

“We’ve even heard stories of people trying to use portable air compressors to take the test,” said Lt. Rob Sharpe, commander of the Washington State Patrol’s Impaired Driving Section.

Washington’s law allows those whose drivers’ licenses would normally be suspended to drive legally with an interlock. It was an acknowledgment that those accused or convicted of impaired driving have jobs and family obligations that require a car.

“History taught us that these people were going to drive anyway,” said Captain Rob Huss, commander of WSP’s Office of Government and Media Relations. “The Ignition Interlock License gives them a way to drive legally, but gives the rest of us some assurance that they’re sober and safe.”

While the camera won’t bust anyone right away, the machine’s software records failures or attempts to tamper with the device. The company which leases the interlocks downloads the information and in turn contacts the State Patrol.

“We do make personal visits to drivers if we have evidence they have tried to fool the machine,” Sharpe said. “Having a picture will be the best possible evidence that someone was trying to cheat.”

In addition to those newly convicted of DUI, drivers who have long term interlock requirements will have to add cameras to their systems.

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Washington drunk drivers to be forced to use interlocks with cameras