A number of provinces have discovered the value of ordering ignition interlocks for people convicted of drunk driving. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
There’s more to an ignition interlock, though. The device also tests drivers at periodic intervals while they drive. Usually when the driver has started the car and has been underway for a few minutes, the interlock will sound a tone, and the driver must blow into it. If alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath, the car’s horn will begin to blow, and the lights will flash, forcing the driver to pull over and stop the car.
It’s important to note that, for safety’s sake, the interlock will never stop a car that is running.
The purpose of the rolling re-test, quite simply, is to prevent a driver from starting the car while sober and then having a drink after he or she is underway. Such things could occur with problem drinkers.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, which supports the use of ignition interlocks, also believes that there should be a greater emphasis on those who fail rolling re-tests. “These are people who have started their vehicle, and have drunk purposely while driving,” says Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada. “A small proportion of people on interlock programs are responsible for 90% of running fails.” MADD believes that drivers should be able to go a year without a failed rolling re-test before having the device removed from the vehicle.
Ignition interlock laws are vital protections against alcohol-related car crashes. They protect the one using the interlock as well as other drivers, passengers and pedestrians. The rolling re-test is an essential part of that protection – in MADD Canada’s opinion, the most essential part. Lawmakers should focus on making a clean ignition interlock test record a condition of passing the program. MADD Canada knows, and lawmakers need to learn, that strong interlock laws mean safer roads.