Ignition Interlock: Get the Facts

Nearly 200 beverage executives from spirits, wine and beer marketing companies and the nation’s largest restaurant and bar operators gathered in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in October for the American Beverage Institute meeting to discuss one of the most pressing issues threatening the bar business today: ignition interlock.

One question asked was whether most bar and club operators understand ignition interlock and what it means to their businesses. If you are not in the know, you need to be, so here is the rundown:

What is Ignition Interlock?
An in-vehicle device that detects blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver’s BAC exceeds a pre-set limit.

The BAC level for interlock devices is typically set at 0.02 or 0.03 percent, well below the legal limit, to allow for a margin of error, according to manufacturers.

Most ignition interlock devices today are in-car breathalyzers, but developing technologies can randomly detect BAC via sensors in steering wheels, gear shifts and key fobs (transdermal detection) and also using retinal scans and measurements of the air in the vehicle.

What’s the legislative angle?
Twelve states now mandate ignition interlocks be placed in the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders, regardless of BAC level or number of previous offenses; 16 mandate for high-BAC, first-time offenders; 12 require for repeat offenders; and six allow for judicial discretion.

Who’s For & Who’s Against?
The hospitality industry supports ignition interlock for high-BAC, repeat drunk driving offenders but does not support it for low-BAC, first-time offenders, asserting that doing so does not address the core of the drunk driving problem in this country — the heavy drinking, repeat drunk drivers.

MADD and several federal government agencies are aggressively advocating for ignition interlock to be standard in all vehicles in the U.S.; federal funds are being sought out to research the technology, and legislation for mandatory ignition interlock is being pushed in several states.
Volvo, Toyota and other auto manufacturers are testing the technology abroad; interlock and insurance companies advocate for it as well.
Led by the American Beverage Institute (ABI), concerned restaurant operators are lobbying against mandatory ignition interlock for all DWI offenders and against the technology becoming standard in all vehicles.

ABI asserts that standard ignition interlock in all cars will essentially create a new era of prohibition in which sale of alcohol in bars, clubs and restaurants will be nearly impossible because the majority of patrons will not be able to start their cars after even a single drink.

What’s Next?
How fast is the pro-interlock campaign moving? ABI anticipates that without intervention from our industry and an outcry from consumers, ignition interlock could be standard in all cars within five years. ABI is launching another round of consumer education outreach.
Nightclub & Bar will continue to cover the issue, and urges you to be aware and be a part of the process. We’ll also present a session on this topic at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas in March 2011.

Bottom line: Get involved or kiss your bar business goodbye! For more information, search “interlock” on nightclub.com or visit interlockfacts.com.

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