Do Ignition Interlock Devices create distracted driving?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Nov 22, 2017 | 9 Comments

According to news reports, Alexis Butler was killed when a driver was distracted while providing a breath-sample on an ignition interlock device.

This tragedy brings to issue a few points that must be covered. The at fault driver was required to provide a breath sample to continue driving. As a result, his attention was divided for approximately three to four seconds.

The result was the death of an 18-year-old woman, and this Georgia DUI Attorney is calling into question the idea that someone should provide a breathalyzer sample while driving.  

In Georgia, a person convicted of a second DUI within a five-year period must install an ignition interlock device to drive (after first being suspended for four months). The interlock must remain on the vehicle for 12-months.

Additionally, when a person is arrested for any DUI, he or she can elect to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle instead of filing an administrative license appeal.

As a result, ignition interlock devices have become quite common for those charged with a DUI in Georgia.  

Everyone knows drinking and driving is unsafe, and these devices are designed to prevent an impaired driver from driving. However, has anyone considered the safety concerns of distracted driving?

A distracted driver can be even more dangerous than impaired driving. In the news reports of this incident, the driver looked away from the road for three to four seconds.  

At 60 mph, a car travels 88 feet. In three seconds, the driver in the case at hand drove almost the length of a football field.  In four seconds, he drove more than the length of a football field. 

To provide a breath sample while driving implies that any driver would be completely distracted and unsafe. This tragedy was bound to happen.

I am not saying that a convicted multiple offense drunk driver should not have their driving monitored. I am, however, saying that we have better options.

It would be better to use passive systems such as ankle monitors and steering wheel monitors to detect alcohol in someone's perspiration. 

The fact is that ignition interlock is a business where the providers have heavily lobbied state legislatures as the solution to drinking and driving. This Georgia DUI Lawyer disagrees.  

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Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


DL Reply

Posted Nov 24, 2017 at 10:06:24

You have a valid point regarding the ignition interlock device. It can be a distraction. However, it is not a requirement to give a sample in order to “keep driving”.
Interlock Devices cannot shut a vehicle off. Likewise, Interlock Users are advised to pull over if a rolling Retest is required by the Driver.
The Driver in question should not have been trying to give a sample while in motion. He should have pulled off to the side of the road and given the sample. The fact that he was distracted by trying to give a breath sample and remain in motion in his vehicle was due to his personal choice to not pull off to give the sample.

Richard Lawson Reply

Posted Nov 24, 2017 at 10:15:03

You make a very good point Mr. Stickler. He should have pulled-over. Thanks for reading the blog.

Elizabeth Reply

Posted Mar 04, 2019 at 08:39:54

In response to the last comment, it is fair to say it’s unknown to many DUI offenders who has to use an IID in their vehicles whether, once prompted for a random breath test while driving, that they do indeed have the option to pull over to the side of the road to give the sample. Many are under the assumption that once prompted, they have to do it on the spot, while driving, or risk a lock out, in the middle of traffic, while driving. That, or if just simply unable to give the breath test when prompted, risk a breath test failure.
So while I’m driving down a freeway in a busy downtown rush hour traffic and I am in the lane I need to be in to take a specific exit (and that could be a middle lane exit) what happens when the IID goes off prompting a breath test? I can’t just pull over to the side of the middle lane in the middle of the junction and expect everyone to go around me. What if I’m on a freeway where their’s 5 lanes of rush hour traffic (going in the same direction) and I’m somewhere in the middle and I get prompted for a breath test. Now I have to cross 2-3 lanes of traffic on either side to get to the emergency lane so I can stop and take the test. Will the IID give me the time it takes to pull off a busy freeway to do this? Even if you say that they could easily just pull over to the side of the road, easily pulling over to the side of the road is not always the case. It is still distracted driving when the device starts beeping at you prompting for a breath test, therein dividing your attention away from traffic and now you need to focus on giving the breath test which also takes your attention away from traffic. It doesn’t matter that you can simply pull off the road to give the test. The simple disruption of the device is enough to distract a person from their driving duties.

Richard Lawson Reply

Posted Mar 04, 2019 at 17:39:09

Elizabeth; thank you for your input in this discussion. It’s very helpful to have your practical experience.

BM Reply

Posted Aug 20, 2019 at 19:25:20

Well, my ex wife was distracted by the device. She was following behind me and it started to beep for a test. The road we were on had no place to pull over and since it was stressed to her that two failed attempts would result in the car not starting after she was finished driving. The driver gets anxious and wants to perform the test. In her case, the unit was not installed in a manor that had easy access and when she reached for it, the cord got snagged on the shift handle and slipped out of her hand and on to the floor under the pedal. She had to reach for it so she can apply the brake. That’s when she ran into the back of me. So in reality, it wasn’t that she was performing a test, I think the units should be installed in a safer easier more accessible manor. Not just lay on the seat where the cord comes out from under the steering column in front of you. That is an accident waiting to happen.

Richard Lawson Reply

Posted Aug 20, 2019 at 19:47:41

I agree. These ignition interlock devices can actually make the roads less safe in situations you have described. Thank you for reading our article.

Margie Roberts Reply

Posted Aug 24, 2019 at 18:56:03

These devices appear to me to be an incredible distraction. It has been stressed to the person I know who is using an IID that he must immediately take the random test or risk the car being “shut down”. If he is on a city street, pulling to the curb to test is not a problem. However, as stated in another comment, if he is on the freeway or a multiple lane busy city street, it is not always possible to pull over safely and take the test. The minute the IID begins to beep, his anxiety level increases and his attention is focused on this device. I believe the principal is an effective idea, but believe the practice is dangerous.

Adam Noyce Reply

Posted Sep 09, 2019 at 19:19:39

It is very much a distraction. Just as bad as a cell if not worse, a cell can be ignored). It beeps loudly, demanding your attention. The long cord crosses over my stickshift and often gets tangled or caught on it. and the “Professionals” mounted it on the right side of the car, I have to lean over and reach across the passanger to get at it. Pulling over to take the test is not always an option.

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