YAKIMA, Wash. — Starting today, law enforcement is adding another layer of safety precaution for drivers convicted of DUI: All new ignition interlock devices will also feature a camera.
Ignition interlock devices, which require a clean breath sample before allowing a car to start, have been used for years to keep those convicted of DUI from reoffending. But authorities said there have been cases of drivers asking a passenger or even a child to blow into the device for them.
With the new devices, a camera automatically takes a snapshot of the driver whenever a sample is required.
The camera actually takes two photos each time, explained Sgt. Ken Denton of the Washington State Patrol impaired driving office in Seattle. The first is taken when the device alerts the driver to provide a breath sample, and the second is snapped while the driver is actively blowing into the interlock device.
“It would show someone else blowing from, say, the back seat, or a passenger,” he said.
The photos, just like the results of each breath test, are sent to the device’s manufacturer, and can be ordered by law enforcement if a question arises about someone faking the tests.
Before the cameras, Denton said, authorities had no way to track claims that a device was being tampered with. In Washington, a first-offense DUI comes with a mandatory one-year ignition interlock. A second offense means five years with the device, and a third means 10 years.
Under the new requirement, offenders who have already received a yearlong restriction are exempt from the camera feature, but those with five- and 10-year restrictions have until June to go to a shop and upgrade to the new device, or risk having their license suspended.
Starting today, every new ignition interlock sentence — one-year, five-year or 10-year — will require a camera as part of the device.
Locally, at least four shops install ignition interlock devices. Manager Bobby Herrera at Tri City Interlock in Union Gap said they’ve been putting on devices with cameras since last February, though the requirement doesn’t start until today.
Cost varies from shop to shop, but at Tri City Interlock, the basic interlock device costs $75 a month and installation is free. The camera-equipped devices cost $85 per month, plus a $20 Department of Licensing fee and a $5 Washington State Patrol fee. That comes to $110 a month.
The device itself, if a driver had to buy it outright, would cost around $2,400 with the camera feature, Herrera estimated.
Herrera said his shop currently has more than 300 interlock devices out in the Yakima area, including 40 to 50 equipped with a camera.