Skip to main content

What is an Ignition Interlock Device?

A man using an ignition-interlock device to start his car because he was involved in a DUI.

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a small handheld unit that measures the amount of alcohol in someone’s system when they blow into a mouthpiece. It is also known as  car breathalyzer, breath-alcohol analyzer or as a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID). 

In many cases,  courts order people who have been convicted of a DUI offense to install an IID before they are allowed to legally drive. Along with an increase in your car insurance costs, drivers who are convicted of DUI may be paying for an IID, as well.

How Does An Ignition Interlock Work?

An IID is a piece of equipment that acts like a breathalyzer in the car’s steering column. The Ignition Interlock System is connected to a vehicle’s engine ignition, and prevents the vehicle from starting if the amount of alcohol is over a pre-specified limit.

With an IID, the car, or any motor vehicle, will only start once the driver breathes into the device and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is registered within the legal limit. A driver will be unable to start their car if they present an elevated alcohol concentration level in their breath sample (typically 0.08% or higher in the United States). 

It will also make re-tests by requiring the driver to provide breath samples at random times during their trip, after starting the vehicle, to ensure that the initial sample was not provided by someone else. 

If the driver presents a re-test failure, the breathalyzer will signal them to pull over, and stop their car.

Who Needs to Obtain an Ignition Interlock Device?

People who have a court order to install an Ignition Interlock Program —or device— as a condition of driving are usually first, or second-time offenders, individuals who refused to take a breath or chemical test, or anyone who got their license suspended due to a conviction for driving under influence (DUI).

The court will also provide the information about their IID requirements, since each state has its own laws that

regulate the use of ignition interlock devices, including the timing of installation, duration, type of device, overseeing authority (such as a probation officer, court, DOT, etc.), and other factors, while the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue a suspension or revocation letter which will provide details on how to regain your driving privileges.

How Long Do I Need An Ignition Interlock Device?

The time it is installed varies, according to the state and the offense, or violation. State laws vary on regulations concerning IID requirements, but an example comes from California, which requires IIDs for:

  • First time offenders who drove under the influence of alcohol, and have caused an injury related to drunk driving (IID will be required for six months)
  • Second DUI offense (IID will be required for one year)
  • Third DUI offense (IID will be required for two years)
  • Four or more DUI offenses (IID will be required for three years)

First time DUI offenders that did not cause an injury will not be required to have an IID in California, but they will have the option to choose between full driving privileges with an IID for six months or a restricted driver’s license for one-year without an IID. The restricted license would only allow them to drive to work and to their required alcohol and drug education program.

People with drunk driving records will also be required to find SR-22 insurance, since they are now considered to be high-risk drivers.

In the case of Washington D.C., enrollment in the Ignition Interlock Device Program (IID Program) is mandatory for those who have committed their first or subsequent alcohol-related offenses, which requires a restricted DC DMV driver license.

How Much Does An Ignition Interlock Device Cost?

Typically between $70 and $200 to get it installed and then you must pay a monthly fee of $2.50 to $3.50 per day. 

IID Installation

The IID must be installed by a state-certified service provider, you cannot install it yourself or get your friend who is a mechanic to do it for you. When looking for a IID, we recommend you to make your choice considering:

  • Easiness when providing breath samples
  • Size according to your needs
  • Ensure the provider has a valid license by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) or Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS)

Ignition Interlock Exemptions

There are certain exemptions to the ignition interlock device requirements available in many states, for instance, if you present a financial hardship you may receive reduced fees or be eligible to apply for a program that pays for the IID in case you are unemployed or financially unable to.

Other exception is applying for an employer exemption in case you drive a company car, or van, during working hours and your employer doesn’t want to install an IID on their company vehicle.

Can I Get Around My IID?

You can, but it is against the law. People have tried a variety of ways to get around their IID, like having a friend blow into the device. Keep in mind that if you successfully get around your IID and then get stopped and charged with DUI or worse, cause an accident, you could go to jail. It’s that serious. Other penalties include having to restart your driver’s license suspension.

The IID itself has anti-tampering software that can tell you if you attempt to bypass the device or disable it. And remember, most PHDs will repeatedly ask you to blow into the mouthpiece while you are driving, not just when you attempt to start the vehicle.

What are the Negative Consequences of Having an IID?

For starters, IID’s can be expensive to install and maintain. They can be annoying to deal with and embarrassing to explain to passengers in your vehicle. Imagine heading out to lunch with your coworkers and having to explain your IID or taking a road trip with friends and being forced to randomly pull-over to provide a breath sample.

While having an IID is not ideal, it does provide the opportunity for you to get back on the road quicker. It also helps to guide you on the path to being a responsible driver and if used effectively you will have your full driving privileges back sooner than you imagined.

Get Low-Cost DUI Auto Insurance Online Today

If you’ve been convicted of a DUI and need affordable auto insurance, Freeway Insurance can help. Freeway specializes in insuring drivers who have DUIs, tickets, accidents, or require an SR-22. Request a free DUI car insurance quote online, over the phone by calling (800) 777-5620 or at one of our convenient locations.

Ready to Get a Quick Quote?