Ignition interlock devices are designed to measure drivers' blood alcohol content and disable the ignition, if drivers' blood alcohol content exceeds a threshold. Drivers are locked out and unable to start the vehicle until they pass the blood alcohol test.
These ignition interlock devices are generally installed in vehicles of individuals who have multiple drunk driving convictions or other special circumstances surrounding a drunk driving conviction, such as having a minor in the car. State law varies whether these devices are mandatory or at judges' discretion.
In Pennsylvania, ignition interlock systems are mandatory for those who have been convicted of more than one driving under the influence offense. The Ignition Interlock Law was enacted to improve highway safety, reduce repeat drunk driving offenses and decrease highway crashes and fatalities.
After a repeat offender had their license suspended for one year, they are eligible for ignition interlock. They must then complete an application and meet certain requirements, after which every vehicle they own, operate or lease must have an ignition interlock system installed. This includes vehicles that the individual shares with others. For example, a family vehicle will need to have the ignition interlock system installed and all family members who attempt to drive the vehicle must pass breath tests when prompted.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will issue an Ignition Interlock License, which is clearly marked to indicate that the individual is restricted to driving only motor vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock system. Drivers are eligible to apply for an unrestricted license without the ignition interlock system after one year.
There are certain exemptions allowing individuals to drive vehicles without the ignition interlock system, such as the economic hardship exemption and the employment exemption. There are also certain penalties for violating the ignition interlock law. These exemptions and penalties will be discussed in a future post.