Interlock Devices Now Equipped with Cameras in Illinois

CC image ignition_interlock by VCU CNS and US DoT on FlickrLaw enforcement officials have taken another step in the fight against drunk driving by adding mandatory cameras on all Blood-Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices (BAIID), which are required for any offender convicted of a DUI.

Although some people might frown upon the idea that “Big Brother” is watching you while you drive, of the 11,000 motorists in Illinois who have a BAIID in their vehicle, more than 3,000 are caught each year trying to drive after they’ve had too much to drink. When asked to explain why they got behind the wheel with an elevated BAC, many claim that a friend or family member was actually driving the car. The addition of mandatory cameras will take the guesswork out of determining who was driving.

“We get an inordinate amount of people telling us it wasn’t them (blowing into the Breathalyzer),” said Susan McKinney, administer of the state’s program. “They say it was anybody but me. Now, the technology will allow us not to have to make a judgment call.”

How it Works

Motorists who are required to use a BAIID will not notice much of a change to the new system. They’ll continue to be required to blow into the machine when starting the car and three times per hour while driving, but the device will snap a picture each time a person blows.

If a person registers a 0.05 or above, the device will send the reading to the Illinois secretary of state for review. The secretary’s office will then send a letter to the motorist, asking for more information about the situation in order to determine if a violation occurred.

Some people believe the mandatory cameras are a privacy infringement, but others, like Susan McKeigue, Illinois Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, believe you lose some privacy rights when you’re convicted of a DUI.

“Driving is a privilege,” said McKeigue. “ It’s not a right, and if you have abused your privilege by being arrested, tried and convicted of drunk driving, then the right to privacy argument is babble.”

The End of Social Drinking

Privacy concerns aside, most will agree that installing cameras onto BAIIDs will help deter drivers from getting behind the wheel when they’ve had too many. Reducing traffic fatalities is a goal everyone can work towards, but some feel the device could negatively impact responsible social drinkers.

Because the device sends information to the Secretary of State if a person blows above a 0.05, a person could be reprimanded even if they weren’t legally drunk. In addition, the NTSB has already recommended the legal limit be dropped from 0.08 to 0.05, which means a person could be over the limit with just one or two drinks.

People on both sides of the fence are trying to figure out a reasonable solution; some say information should only be sent if a person registers over a 0.08, while others say the legal limit should be 0.05 across the board. Sarah Longwell, managing director for the American Beverage Institute, said lowering the legal limit could bring an end to social drinking.

“It decimates the restaurant and hospitality industry,” said Longwell. “A wiser approach would be to extend greatly the length of time a motorist arrested for drunken driving must operate his or her vehicle with an ignition interlock device.”

Longwell concluded by saying responsible drinkers could be hurt most if the legal limit was dropped.

“Then it’s moved from an anti-drunken-driving mentality to an anti-drinking agenda.”

Attorney Brett Appelman comments

These in-car breathalyzers were first mandated in Illinois in 2009, and the technology of alcohol detection is advancing very quickly. With the addition of a camera, the hope of the Secretary of State and MAAD is that less people will be tempted to try to fool the breath device.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, you must have one of these devices installed in your vehicle in order to legally drive. Up until now there was no way for the device to determine who was blowing into the device; the driver, or someone else. While the penalties for attempting to fool the device are severe (felony charges for both the driver and whoever blew into the device on their behalf), prosecutions are extremely rare.

The cameras will take the guesswork out of the process of deciding if the driver was trying to fool the device or not. Aside from losing their permit to drive with the device, the driver, and their friend, will now more likely face criminal charges. The hope is that with these severe penalties in place, there will be less attempts to fool the device, and therefore less intoxicated drivers on the road.

On the other side, the privacy concerns are a legitimate complaint. No one wants the government constantly filming their actions, or listening in on their conversations. Are these cameras just the beginning of a slippery slope that ends with cameras in ALL cars, regardless of the owner’s criminal history? Will the customers even be told that there are cameras in the cars? There is a very valid argument to be made that cameras will infringe on people’s constitutional protections against unlawful searches.

In the case of these cameras, the privacy argument will likely lose out to the safety argument. These cameras should, in theory, reduce the likelihood of drunken driving by people with the devices in their cars. Since driving is a privilege, not a right, the State can realistically demand that if you have a prior DUI, and you want to drive, then you must install a breath device and a camera in your car.

Related source: Chicago Tribune