Program that puts breathalyzer devices in cars expanding in Michigan

Posted at 6:31 AM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 07:00:34-04

Getting around metro Detroit could soon be getting safer thanks to the expansion of a program to decrease drinking and driving.

Those devices drivers blow into before starting their cars to make sure they are sober are called ignition interlock devices.

They are usually installed after someone commits a drunk driving offense. Right now, only judges in certain courtrooms can mandate ignition interlock devices, however, it could be expanding to more courtrooms.

Many drivers we spoke to didn't know much about the devices. Those who did said they were worried that maybe they would flag cough medicine or cold medicine.

SmartStart, which makes the devices, said that it's as simple as using water to wash out the mouth to get an accurate reading.

Judge Richard Kuhn Jr., a judge at 51st District Court in Waterford, said his court has a sobriety court program.

“There are a number of requirements before I even authorize the individuals to use the interlock device," Kuhn said.

He said the interlock devices are a helpful tool.

“It is not an automatic with me, but many folks that end up in our sobriety court are ready to take those steps to recovery and this is a tool that allows us to help even in a small way keep our streets here safer in the state of Michigan," he said.

I'm told the technology has only expanded over time, including facial scans.

“We had complaints and I watched the videos of people having other people blow for them, and in one case someone tried to have a raccoon blow for them, so we know we need a digital image," Sen. Ruth Johnson said.

She introduced legislation to expand the ignition interlock devices to other courtrooms, including drug treatment, mental health and veteran treatment courts.

“We know we need to keep our roads safe, and we need to keep people working if we can for their family, so it is a win-win that works," Johnson said.

The legislation is now headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk.