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Ask a trooper: Ignition interlock a successful tool to fight drunken driving

Q: Does ignition interlock really work?

A: Yes. Interlock is an important tool in the fight against drunken driving. This technology is critical to helping reduce drunken-driving tragedies, like those that have killed at least 585 people in the past five years in Minnesota.

Interlock ensures driving while intoxicated offenders are driving sober, leading to safer roads for all of us. It also provides a pathway to sober and legal driving for those who are arrested so they can continue their lives -- such as driving to work, school, etc. It seems to be a win-win for everyone and we are looking forward to its expanded use in Minnesota.

Less than 1 percent of the 10,664 DWI offenders in Minnesota who have used or are using ignition interlock have reoffended since the program's statewide inception in July 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety. This technology is cutting down on impaired driving and creating a safer driving environment for the traveling public.

Who is it for: Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 percent and above alcohol-

concentration level must use interlock to regain legal driving privileges, or face at least one year without a driver's license. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to install interlock and use it for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Interlock features -- anti-circumvention features:

  • "Rolling re-tests" require driver to provide a breath sample three to five minutes after starting the vehicle and randomly thereafter.
  • In-car cameras record all breath tests. Video and test results are available for the Department of Public Safety to monitor.
  • Specific hum or suck-back patterns required when providing breath sample.
  • Users are required to have the interlock calibrated monthly by a service provider. Service providers will run reports that indicate how many times the vehicle started, number of rolling re-tests, and any test fails (an alcohol-concentration limit of 0.02 percent or above). Service providers will send reports to DPS for review and to take appropriate action or extend sanctions.

    For more information on the ignition interlock program, visit

    We all need to work together to promote a traffic safety culture in Minnesota, and to help make drinking and driving socially unacceptable behavior. Ignition interlock helps us a lot. Report anyone you think might be impaired and don't drink and drive. Planning ahead is the key.

    Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol.

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