Cars May Soon be Required to Have Breathalyzers

The modern car is equipped with cutting-edge technology designed to ensure driver safety, from adaptive cruise control to blind-spot detection to lane-departure warning systems.

Soon, there may be a new safety feature installed in cars—built-in breathalyzers, or Ignition Interlock Devices.

A recent study from the University of Michigan found that installing breathalyzer technology in all new cars would save more than 59,000 lives over the course of 15 years, which would mean an 85 percent drop in auto accident deaths.

Though installing breathalyzer in cars would be expensive—around $400 per vehicle—the estimated $342 billion saved in auto accident costs would far outweigh the expense.CLICK TO TWEET

Current Ignition Interlock Devices are bulky and invasive, requiring drivers to blow into a breathalyzer that is connected to the vehicle prior to starting the engine. If the device detects a blood alcohol concentration that is over the legal limit, the engine will not start.

Engineers are seeking to improve existing car breathalyzer technologies by developing less obtrusive in-car systems for measuring blood alcohol content in drivers. One such system is breath-based and would assess air on the inside of the car as a driver breathes normally to detect blood alcohol concentration.

Another system is based on touch and would assess the driver’s blood alcohol concentration when they touch a steering wheel or start button. Advocates hope to develop a system that can determine BAC within a half a second, with an accuracy of .0003 percent. It is predicted that such technologies could be available in as little as five years.

The Colorado Ignition Interlock Program Today

However, for many Colorado DUI offenders, a built-in car breathalyzer is nothing new. Under Colorado law, some individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence-related crimes may be permitted to resume driving if they participate in Colorado’s Ignition Interlock program. The program reinstates driving privileges before defendants’ original eligibility date if they install an Ignition Interlock breathalyzer in every motor vehicle they own, co-own, or have access to operate. Typically, previous DUI offenders must serve one to two months of license suspension before they are eligible for the Ignition Interlock program.

Qualified drivers must install an Ignition Interlock device at their own expense, and these devices must be approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. To meet requirements, devices must:

  • Be installed in all motor vehicles the driver owns, co-owns, or has access to operate.
  • Measure the breath alcohol content of the driver before the vehicle is turned on.
  • Periodically take additional breath samples while the vehicle is in use.
  • Stop the driver from starting the engine or continuing to drive if it measures an alcohol level above the pre-approved alcohol set point.

How an Ignition Interlock Device Works

An Ignition Interlock device is attached to the dashboard of a motor vehicle and requires a breath sample indicating a BAC of less than .03 percent. The driver may try up to three times before the Ignition Interlock device turns off and must be recalibrated by a technician. If the driver blows a successful reading, the vehicle will start. Throughout the duration of the drive, the device will require additional breath samples to demonstrate the driver’s continued sobriety.

The Ignition Interlock device records the results from all tests, and any failures are reported at monthly alcohol evaluations to the DMV. If the device reports indicate repeated attempts to drive while under the influence, the driver’s license restriction and required participation in the Interlock program may be extended. Similarly, if the driver attempts to tamper with the Ignition Interlock advice, or drives a vehicle without the device installed, the driver’s driving privilege may be revoked for at least another year.

Charged with a DUI in Colorado?

The Ignition Interlock device can feel intrusive and embarrassing and can be very expensive to install. And having the go through the Ignition Interlock program is often the least unpleasant of the consequences you’ll face if you are convicted with a DUI. As a convicted DUI offender, you may have to serve time in jail, pay hefty fines, and have your driving privileges restricted for months before you even qualify for the Ignition Interlock program.

If you are facing DUI charges in Colorado, it’s essential to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney. An attorney can help you understand your options, and work to defend your driving privileges, freedom, and reputation. With a DUI attorney on your side, you are in a better position to have your sentence reduced or your case dismissed entirely.


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