New IID Technology Tested by NHTSA

Penalties for driving while intoxicated convictions typically include many components. Fines, jail time, suspension or revocation of driving privileges and community service are among the common consequences. As noted by the Governors Highway Safety Association, New York is one of few states that also require the use of ignition interlock devices after any and all DWI, DUI or DWAI convictions. The majority of states order IIDs only for drivers with exceptionally high blood alcohol contents or with prior drunk driving convictions.

Ignition interlock devices work to prevent drivers from operating vehicles if their BAC levels are over the legal limit. Current models include a dash-mounted Breathalyzer that registers the BAC and sends the results to an electronic chip that controls the ignition. If the BAC level is too high, the vehicle’s ignition will be locked and will remain so until another test is able to be successfully passed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing new versions of ignition interlock devices that take advantage of newer technology according to Edmunds. One prototype leverages infrared technology that would record BAC data simply by touch. Sensors placed into steering wheels would be able to measure drivers’ alcohol levels when putting their hands on the wheels. The other device is similar to existing IIDs, relying on breath data, but would not require drivers to breathe into a device. Perhaps the biggest change with these products is that they would be integrated into new cars by the automotive manufacturers versus required simply as a drunk driving consequence.

It is unknown yet if or when the new types of IIDs may be put into use. The accuracy of these new devices is also unknown, potentially opening up concerns about inappropriate results reporting and associated penalties. In the meantime, drivers in New York will continue to face the use of standard ignition interlock devices if convicted of any alcohol-related driving offenses.

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