Will the ignition interlock law save us from ourselves? Part 1

By Linda Atkinson
Executive Director
DWI Resource Center

In recent years, New Mexico has received a great deal of praise for passing strict laws mandating ignition interlock for all convicted DWI offenders. However, it would be unwise to view the interlock as a panacea for the state’s DWI issues. In our typical court mandated interlock sanction, two-thirds of New Mexico offenders still do not install igni­tion interlocks. The risk of detection for driving-while-suspended violations is low and many offenders choose to drive without a license rather than install an interlock. A few methods of avoidance offenders utilize include: Tell the court they will not be driving or don’t have a vehicle, purchase a cheap vehicle (in New Mexico one can purchase a vehicle without a valid driver’s license) and there are the offenders who drive a motorcycle, on which an ignition interlock device cannot be installed.

Research shows ignition interlocks reduce recidivism among both first-time and repeat DWI offenders.  Once ignition interlocks are removed from vehicles, recidivism rates of ignition inter­lock users are similar to the rates for offenders who did not install ignition inter­locks.

New Mexico is viewed as a national “leader” in mandating the use of “ignition interlock” devices to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.  However,New Mexico’s approaches have many systemic problems that seem to compromise the system’s potential and its performance at reducing impaired driving.  These issues deserve careful, independent study.

Issue: The executive and judicial branches are not carrying out the laws as intended.

Judicial – Many judges are not ordering interlocks because they resist the concept, they view the interlocks as unaffordable to the offenders, they lack confidence in the devices’ vendors and system oversight of them, or they accept offenders’ word that they aren’t driving or own no vehicles.  Courts are not uniformly giving close monitoring that devices are actually installed, maintained, and used, once ordered, and they are not uniformly giving close attention to device performance and devices’ reports about offender compliance.
Administrative – Many offenders don’t bother to request the ignition interlock licenses, since they can readily drive without a license with near-zero risk of detection.  Agencies are not giving close monitoring that devices are actually maintained once ordered, and they are not uniformly giving close attention to device performance and devices’ reports about offender compliance.

Vendors – Vendors are not closely monitored.  Instances of corrupt behavior by vendors have been detected without official response.

Enforcement – Courts, agencies and prosecutors have not followed up on these problems.


Issue: Individuals ordered to receive the devices are not complying with the law.

Noncompliance with required installation

Defeating after installation

Defeating by disabling

Defeating by deceit

Driving other vehicles


Issue:  Ignition interlock usage has little effect on system-wide DWI behavior

The devices are ordered most for people who are least likely to repeat

Most DWI injuries are caused by impaired drivers the device would not reach

Those most likely to recidivate are least likely to comply with the device requirements.

Failures in lack of community model

Lack of independent evaluation

Failures from undermining effective alternatives

Undermining driving restrictions

Undermining repeat offender penalties

Undermining general deterrence effects with those never arrested

Ignition interlock systems are an important technological advance in the battle against drunk driving, but on their own they will not win it. It’s easy to look at the immediate success while the device is installed and relax efforts to fight drunk driving in other areas, but the unfortunate truth is that the problem is not solved yet. Addressing long-term recidivism and compliance will be a start, but we cannot say we have won until drunk-driving is in fact a thing of the past.

Next week the status of ignition interlocks in the near future

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
Henry Ford

4 replies
  1. Kelli Bush
    Kelli Bush says:

    I believe the interlock system does more harm then good. My husband had a DWI 5 years ago in another state. In order to obtain a NM license, he had to have an interlock in his vehicle for a year. He already lost his license for a year in the state he got the DWI, along with many other punishments. This seems unconstitutional to me. The interlock system is a joke! The problem is not the people who are trying to comply, but the repeat offenders who drive without a license. My husand has lost multiple job opportunities because of having the interlock. I guess New Mexico cares more about money then their unemployment rate! I believe this law needs to be looked at a little deeper. The question needs to be is it hurting or helping New Mexicans???

  2. Darrin
    Darrin says:

    I had a lot of trouble in the past with learning the right and wrongs of driving and drinking I was caught and paid the price. I had all that the courts had to throw at me done. Except one thing the interlock and that was because I gave my rights up to own a car or to drive. For over 15 ;years going on almost 20 I did not own a car or drive a car. In the last year my means for getting around ended. I was depending on family and friends for all that time to get around. In the wake of my mothers passing that ended most of my way of getting around. So I was then left with not getting around or walking every where and in the part of New Mexico where there are no taxi no bus service that you can mention or to be able to handle the handicaps that I have. I had to find away to get around and I went to go about the whole getting my license and doing it all right but at every turn I had a road block and more money after more money.. I never had a car so I was never able to carry out the interlock and so with 15 years passing I would think that it was enough of a punishment that I should not still have to get the interlock. I was wrong for what I did and thank all that is there that no one was ever hurt by my bad choices. But I went to jail I paid my fines I did what the courts asked me to do. I choice not to drive and I lost out on many things. I had to have things worked out for rides and made sure I was not scheduled beyond a certain time. I did that to myself and much more. The list can go on but the point is I got things together I have worked on getting myself better and to learn the right and the wrongs. Well now it all coming up again I have bought a car with money left to me for a better life In doing this I went to the DMV to get all my things in order got to the interlock and with as much time had past and the amount of restrain and lack of life I gave up because of my actions I was let down on the interlock part of my sentencing. I know that it is a part of the agreement and I do understand that I did wrong but when is giving up your rights and trying to change your life to make it better and to do all that you can to change the long line of mistakes do you get a chance to say it was worth it. I can’t I now am without a licences and dealing with trying to get the interlock on the car that I now have to put out more money that I now do not have nor can I make. Even with the help of MADD interlock program I am still without the funds that it would take to put the lock on my car. Now to be thrown back into my nightmare of all the things that I lost due to my stupidity. I am now reminded it will never end or it will never be over so I am trying to get things right and I am driving and have been stop twice and now I am having to deal with it I have lost another grand and have spent time in jail which has put me in debit to the point that I am starting to lose things. And I now do not have the money to even think of having the interlock put on. What do I do I can’t ask for forgiveness and I can’t get things straightened out to the point I am legal and I am made hole again. It is a never ending revolving door. I can never be legal again due to the cost that keep happening and I can’t get out from under it what do I do how do I stop this. I have to get around I am disabled now and have doctor and other appointments that I have to make can’t depend on anyone to get me to them. Can’t afford a driver can afford to be legal. And it doesn’t stop it keep going and going. No way out and it is so sad that I have done this to myself thinking that I did the right thing by getting myself in a better place before I take on the privilege of driving again. But because I have chosen this way I will never be able to be the person that I was hoping I had become a person that has earned the right to drive again. But this interlock is going to keep me form doing it the right way. I don’t know where I can turn to even start to make all this right I can’t do it without driving. I am just stuck and no where to go or to turn. I will be for always in this hell that I created over for making the wrong choice I want to make the right choice but I now know that I will not be able to it will never go away. I will be stuck with my mistake the rest of my life. I am sorry for the trouble I caused and I am sorry that I took something that was a honor and used it to the point that I was pulled in front of the courts and made to be accountable for and I do believe I did but now I am being put on trial all over again because of my lack of money the money the money it is money for this and for that. I don’t have it and I can’t get it so now what. It just not ever going to end and I will never be able to leave the past in the past. I know that the interlock is important in some cases but in all I don’t think so you ask why are people driving without license I hope this at least gives you a idea of one of the reasons. It not a bright reason nor is it a good reason but it what I am left with and nowhere to turn to get it right. I am left with this and now way to correct it. I am sorry for that and I am sorry that the state don’t see that something just can’t be made right with money. I thought I did make it right with the choice of not driving and now I find out that I hurt myself by not getting right back into a car and to get the interlock on my car and hoping for the best because my drinking did not end overnight it took some time and a lot of struggle so I made the right choice for me I drank and got behind a wheel I don’t deserve to drive. I did that because I was wrong. Now I am right and I want the right to drive again. I paid my dues and I did what was asked of me I am sorry that I did not rush out and buy a car and had the interlock put on. I did what was best for me and I did my own punishment. So now what i just don’t have the answer. .


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