Ignition Interlock Truths and Myths

Smart Start of California, industry leaders in Ignition Interlock Device installation, repair and configuration, have heard it all when it comes to IIDs. There is a plethora of disinformation and half-truths on the internet regarding these devices. In fact, ignition interlock devices are reliable and relatively easy to use.

Here are a collection of the some of the most common myths about ignition interlock devices that our specialists hear:

1. Ignition Interlock Devices Drain Batteries.

The SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 draw less than 1/4 of one amp when not in operation and they draw ½ half of one amp when they are preparing for a test. This is minimal drain on the battery of a properly functioning vehicle electrical system. The Ignition Interlock will not drain the battery to the point where it will not start unless the vehicle is not started for approximately 10 consecutive days. This period will be shorter if the electrical system is not functioning properly such as poor alternator output or dead cells in the vehicle battery. These symptoms are common in vehicles 5 years old and older. In such a case, the vehicle would have battery problems with or without an ignition interlock device. Just as tires on a car wear out with use, so do batteries and alternators and they are considered standard maintenance items for proper vehicle upkeep.

We encourage Smart Start clients to start their vehicles on a regular basis so they maintain a charged battery. Keep in mind, the court/DMV order states the unit should be installed in the vehicle most often used. If the car sits unused for extended periods of time, the client may be driving another vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock.

2. Spicy or Mexican Foods Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

In some cases spicy foods, when mixed with the HCL in the stomach creates a gas called methane. With the non-alcohol specific devices the methane gas will create a false positive because the sensor reacts to the hydrocarbons. Anti-acids and water will usually relieve the situation. This phenomenon doesn’t occur with the alcohol specific ignition interlock. Smart Start ® ONLY utilizes alcohol specific, Fuel Cell technology.

3. Cigarette smoke and snuff Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

Smart Start clients are instructed to always take a few deep breaths before blowing into the unit if they are smokers. Cigarette smoke does not affect the alcohol specific ignition interlock however; smoke should never be blown into any unit.

4. Gasoline at the service station Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

Normal refueling at the gas station will NOT create a failure. Gasoline in high concentration will not register enough to be a fail on an alcohol specific ignition interlock.

5. Perfume, hairspray, after-shave colognes, Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

Most perfumes and colognes contain alcohol but the ignition interlock will not react to it in heavy concentrations.

6. Mouthwash/Mouthspray Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

Mouthwash and sprays usually contain up to 30% alcohol and will definitely react as alcohol in all ignition interlock devices. Non-alcohol mouthwash is available and all ignition interlock users should use this mouthwash. The alcohol concentration level can register as high as.250 but will immediately dissipate within a fifteen (15) minute timeframe due to being mouth alcohol only or quicker if the mouth is rinsed with water. Smart Start clients are always instructed to rinse their mouths out with water before each and every test.

7. Chocolate mints, Altoids, Dentyne and other gums Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

Alcohol filled chocolates will register a fail; however, the alcohol in the chocolate will dissipate in 3 minutes.

8. Cinnamon Rolls and Donuts Can Give Me A False Positive Ignition Interlock Result

The sugar and the active yeast can combine to create a low level alcohol fail some of the time. However, as with cigarette smoke or mouthwash, a second test will indicate a drop or a completely clean test. Rinsing the mouth with water after eating and before blowing into the device will eliminate a fail. Smart Start clients should ALWAYS rinse their mouth with water before taking a test.

9. The Ignition Interlock just aborts and I can’t start my vehicle.

The majority of all aborts are caused by improperly blowing into the SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30. If the aborting continues, the client should always call the Smart Start at 1-888-289-5669 for a solution.

10. My friend or girlfriend was drinking and they were the one who blew a fail

The defendant is informed that they are responsible for all tests recorded on the vehicle’s ignition interlock.

11. My engine stopped following a failed a rolling retest in an unsafe location.

The SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 are designed to prevent the starting of a vehicle if a breath test is not passed. There is only one wire interrupted for the installation of the ignition interlock device and it serves no other purpose than to send the signal to the starter for the vehicle to start once the test is passed. If the individual fails a test while driving, it simply records a violation; it does not shut the vehicle down.

12. T-Cell (non-alcohol specific) vs. the Fuel cell (alcohol specific device)?

A fuel cell sensor is an electrochemical device in which the substance of interest, in this case alcohol, undergoes a chemical oxidation reaction at a catalytic electrode surface (platinum) to generate an electrical response. This response is then converted to an alcohol equivalent reading. By careful design and catalyst selection, the fuel cell chemistry can be geared to work only with a limited range of fuel substances. This is what gives the cell its high specificity to alcohol. T Cells, Taguchi, or Semi-conductor sensors, consist of a small bead of metal oxide, which is heated to a high temperature, and a voltage is applied to produce a small current. As a substance comes into contact with the small bead (alcohol) it changes this current. This change is then converted into an alcohol reading.

13. I only had one beer or glass of wine prior to attempting to drive.

If one drink is consumed one hour or more prior to startup, the average person will pass the test. Alcohol is normally metabolized at the rate of 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. It should be noted that size, gender, and several other factors play a key role in determining the body’s absorption of alcohol. There is no single formula that can be used for everybody in determining how much he or she can drink before they are affected by the alcohol.

14. I will be able to start my vehicle without taking a test.

This can only be accomplished by a deliberate means of circumventing the ignition interlock. This would be considered tampering and would be recorded by the ignition interlock as a start violation.

15. What does anti circumvention mean?

This is a generic term for features designed to make tampering of the ignition interlock much more difficult. Some anti-circumvention features of the SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 include voice-tone, rolling-retests and the ability to detect power disconnects.

16. The rolling retest is dangerous.

The rolling retest is programmed to ask for a test within 5 to 15 minutes after initial start up of the vehicle and then randomly thereafter about every 45 minutes. Once the SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 request the test, the client has six (6) minutes to respond. The test does not require eye contact with the device and the 6 minutes allows adequate time to pull over if the client feels more comfortable doing so.

17. The Ignition Interlock device is not very accurate.

All interlock devices must be certified to meet NTHSA specifications for accuracy and dependability and often by each State’s specs as well. When properly calibrated the ignition interlocks are accurate enough to determine the presence of alcohol and its concentration. The device ignition interlock cannot be used to determine if a client is legally intoxicated because the test is unsupervised. Some of the evidentiary breath testing equipment used by the police departments actually utilizes a fuel cell sensor as an additional means of verifying test results. Interlocks with fuel cell sensors are accurate.

18. Anyone can blow in the Ignition Interlock. I only have one car in our family.

All family members must be trained to use the SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30, however, the client is responsible for any positives and all readings registering on the monthly data logs. Yes, anyone can blow into the ignition interlock, but they must be able to make the voice tone and pass a test, at a level determined by State requirements, and they must also submit to the rolling retests.

19. Defense attorneys will attack the credibility of reports/data.

This is what defense attorneys are paid to do. We provide ignition interlock services and have employees who can provide testimony in cases where either the records are contested or detailed explanations of the reports are necessary. We prefer to have at least 3 days advance notice, but can prepare for a case in a shorter period of time if necessary. When the reports indicate repeated and significant problems we have been highly successful in having our device, systems, and reports held up in court. When there is only a single event or when events are interpreted outside of our standards the success rate is lower.

20. The Ignition Interlock Device costs too much.

The SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 cost approximately $2.50 per day. The cost is at the expense of the offender. Statistics show that the average amount of money spent on alcohol per day by the offender is $16.00. They spend 30% of their monthly salary on alcohol.

Nothing is 100%. However, our ignition interlock works and there are independent studies that back this up. In order for the SSI 20/20 & SSI 20/30 to be effective they must remain on the vehicle. Smart Start Inc. has prevented over 4 million illegal starts since 1992. Surely we have saved several lives by preventing so many DWI attempts!

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