Feb 172003
Authors: Patrick Crossland

If your car won’t start and it is full of gas, it may not be a mechanical problem.

The Guardian Interlock System is a Breathalyzer that prohibits the driver from starting their vehicle without first blowing into the unit, which then computes the blood alcohol level and either permits or forbids the vehicle to be started.

“It is an alcohol monitoring device for people who have DUIs,” said Marty Strom, a mechanic at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service, located at 1219 Blue Spruce Dr. in Fort Collins. The car service installs approximately five interlock systems per week.

The device is most commonly used by individuals who have been convicted of driving while under the influence, and is now mandatory by three Colorado Revised Statutes.

Previously, the interlock system enabled those with DUIs to get their licenses back early; now it is mandatory, said Strom.

“It reduces the recurrence of DUIs in drivers,” he said.

The system is fully equipped to log and record every transaction that a client has with their vehicle, including activity, time, date and BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) level. The unit has a built in “Memo Minder,” which counts down the days between required service intervals. It also will enable the interlock system, not allowing the car to start if an appointment is missed.

In order to prevent a system bypass, the unit is capable of performing a rolling retest, which requires the driver to take tests subsequent to the initial test to ensure sobriety during vehicle operation.

An additional benefit of the interlock program is the ability to know what your limit is, Strom said.

“People have put (the system) in voluntarily,” said Strom. “It teaches people. A person can have one glass of wine with dinner, but you can’t have five.”

Parents who feel unsure about their children driving while under the influence may also have the system installed.

One setback of the system is the unavoidable cost.

“Setbacks are usually just the cost,” Strom said. “People don’t want to put the money into it.”

The cost of installation is around $197, which gives you two months worth of lease payments. Payments are $66 per month, which also includes insurance. The vehicle owner makes these payments.

Every two months, the vehicle is brought into a mechanic to make payments, download information onto a mainframe computer that can be accessed by the DMV and to calibrate the unit to ensure accuracy.

Guardian Interlock searched for local mechanic shops with more than 15 years of experience to ensure legitimacy of the shop.

“You can’t have any DUIs in the management or in the ownership (of the company),” he said. “They want to make sure you are the kind of person who will turn people in when they need to be turned in. You’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain.”

During installation, there is a two-hour orientation, including a movie about the product and instructions.

“I believe in the system,” Strom said. “I’ve got kids on the road.”

Senior landscape architecture student Gavin Meyers said the program could be beneficial, but was hesitant about others attempting to drive the vehicle.

“I wouldn’t want another person driving my car and failing three times and then having that on my record,” Meyers said.

Junior microbiology student Shayna Warner said the interlock system is a good idea and individuals convicted with a DUI should prove they’ve had a change in behavior.

“I think it should be based on if they’ve done something to prove that they’ve changed their habits or have learned their lesson,” said Warner.

When asked how she would feel if her parents wanted to install one on her car she said, “I’d probably be OK with it. I shouldn’t be drinking and driving anyway.”

Pull Quotes:

“I believe in the system,” Marty Strom said. “I’ve got kids on the road.”

“People have put (the system) in voluntarily,” said Strom. “It teaches people. A person can have one glass of wine with dinner, but you can’t have five.”

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