Drivers Not Using Interlock Devices - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Drivers Not Using Interlock Devices

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- Tens of thousands of convicted drunk drivers in Washington are required to have an ignition-interlock device in their car, a new study though shows most of them don't.

The Department of Licensing monitors interlock devices, but they don't have an agency that monitors whether someone gets one or not after they're convicted.  Because of that, only about 4,400 of the 28,000 drivers required to use them have have them installed.

The systems require drivers to take a breathalyzer before their cars will start.  If they blow above a certain level, it won't start.

Most people that should have them though don't, and the only way they'll get caught is if police pull them over.

"When we stop somebody for a violation, and we run their driver's license, to get a check of their driving status, if they have that ignition interlock it'll come up as a restriction on their license and we'll go back up and check the car," said Kennewick Police Sergeant Ken Lattin.

Most of the time they're pulled over for other violations, like speeding, or running a red light. And even when the systems are installed, often, they've been tampered with.

"Sometimes what we'll also see is that the device is in the car but they've taken the wires apart so it's not actually attached to the car. So at first glance when you look at it you'll see the device there, but not know that it's disconnected," said Lt. Jay Cabezuela with Washington State Patrol.

If the court's ordered it, it's a misdemeanor to drive without it. 

Many people try to beat the test by having a friend blow for them. That doesn't always work though.

"The machine will ask you to blow into it, and then five minutes later it'll ask for another test. And that's to keep intoxicated people from getting a friend to blow into it of a bartender cause usually you can't make it across town in five minutes," said Jim Taylor, who installs the devices.

Taking the test for a friend is also a gross misdemeanor.

"I can't even imagine why you would do that when you're friend is drunk, they're required to have this device, and you're gonna commit a crime just to help them drive home. Why don't you just take the keys and drive them home yourself," Lattin said.

The system costs about $70 a month, and with all the other costs associated with a DUI it adds up fast.

Police say that's much of the reason many people never get them installed.  It's just too costly, so many drivers choose to go without it or simply not drive at all.