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Original News Release





Dec. 18, 2008

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General





An ignition interlock prevents a drinking driver from starting or continuing to operate his or her vehicle. The devices are available through a network of installers in urban centres throughout British Columbia.


The devices are easy to use but hard to defeat. Before starting an interlock-equipped vehicle, a driver must pick up the hand-held unit and follow the instructions it displays. If the driver fails to provide a proper sample – for example, by blowing too softly – the readout panel prompts the driver to try again. Once the device receives a proper sample and determines that the driver has not been drinking, the vehicle can be started and operated.


As the driver continues his or her journey, the device will demand additional breath samples, to ensure the driver is not drinking while driving. If a participant fails to provide a sample, or the sample contains alcohol, an alarm triggers the vehicle’s horn if the driver does not pull over and stop the engine. The driver remains locked out for 15 minutes before he or she can try again.


Interlock works to protect the integrity of both breath samples and the device itself. For example, the device requires a driver to blow into it and then inhale before taking a breath test. This requirement helps to thwart bogus air samples. Any tampering with the device or its power source – for example, by replacing the vehicle’s battery – is recorded by the device. If the unit is bypassed, an alarm will be activated and the driver will need to shut down the vehicle. 


An onboard log keeps track of every interaction between driver and interlock. If a driver continually tries to start the vehicle and is locked out due to alcohol in their system, interlock will record this and send a report to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV). The superintendent may extend the driver’s participation in the program or take other action.



How Drivers Will Know if They Must Have an Interlock Device



If a driver meets one of the criteria for mandatory interlock after Feb. 1 – for example, by receiving two 90-day administrative driving prohibitions – OSMV will send them a letter informing them that they are now required to have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle. If the driver does not have the device installed within 30 days, their driver’s licence will be cancelled. Once it is installed, both OSMV and ICBC receive notification that the driver is registered in the program.




Ignition Interlock: Building on B.C.’s Road Safety Record


Making interlock devices mandatory for more drinking drivers is the latest tough step the Province is taking to curb impaired driving.


Other measures and penalties introduced or extended in the last several years have included:


  • Automatic vehicle impoundment.  Drunk drivers caught behind the wheel – even under the legal limit – and given a 24-hour roadside prohibition from driving automatically lose the keys to their vehicle for 24 hours and earn a visit to the impound lot.
  • Civil forfeiture. B.C.’s civil forfeiture law, amended last spring, now allows a judge to order a vehicle forfeited if he or she rules impaired or reckless driving was likely to cause death or serious injury.
  • Mandatory alcohol rehabilitation. Launched in 2005, the Responsible Driver Program (RDP) is mandatory for drivers with an alcohol-related conviction or multiple offences below the legal limit, such as two administrative driving prohibitions or three 24-hour roadside suspensions within five years. (These are the same conditions that will trigger mandatory ignition interlock use after Feb. 1, 2009.) This alcohol rehabilitation program includes one-on-one assessments and, for those with significant issues, a lengthy period of counselling. Those who don’t complete the RDP lose their driver’s licence or can’t re-license.
  • Driving while suspended or prohibited. Drunk drivers who decide to keep driving without a licence will get an automatic 60-day vehicle impoundment the first time it happens. The second time, prohibited drivers lose the keys for 90 days. The Province also increased the fine for driving while prohibited or suspended to $500 from $300 in 2005.







Cindy Rose

Public Affairs Officer

250 356-6961


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