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What is an Alcohol Interlock Violation?

January 22, 2020

What is it?

If you've been on an interlock program or have been researching one, you've probably come across the term 'interlock violation'. It's literally when a condition of an interlock program has been violated. There's many ways this can happen.

What causes it?

Not all violations are caused by driving after drinking alcohol. Violations can also be caused by missing a scheduled service period, missing a random retest, disconnecting the battery for 20 minutes, and even accidental positive BAC readings. In short, there are many ways for a violation to be committed when you are on an alcohol interlock program. Here is a convenient list of actions that can cause alcohol interlock violations:

  • Blowing a BAC over 0.02 on an initial test is a violation. It is for this reason that we tell you to never use your interlock device as a breathalyser or to gauge whether you're fit to drive.
  • Missing or failing a random retest. If you leave the vehicle and miss a random retest because you did not notice it being requested, this still counts as missing a random retest. If a test is requested when you arrive at your destination and are just about to turn off your engine, it's a violation if you don't provide a sample.
  • Tampering and circumvention of the device are considered violations. Any instances of driving a vehicle without first providing an alcohol-free breath sample to the device is considered a violation.
  • In line with the previous point, if the device records a battery disconnection of over 20 minutes, this is considered a tampering event.
  • Blowing a reading. Even if you have not been drinking alcohol, there are a number of things that may cause a reading such as trace alcohol in food, drinks, mints, and toothpaste. Regardless of what has caused the BAC reading, this is still considered a violation.

What happens next?

  • After a violation is logged, a VIOLOCK countdown will begin on your device. Before the countdown expires, you must book in and attend an unscheduled service. If you have not attended an unscheduled service in this period then your device will lock out. This means that you will not be able to start your engine and use your vehicle. In this event, you will have to call Smart Start Interlocks for an unlock code. This will allow you to start your engine for a 6-hour window, enough time to get to a service centre for an unscheduled service.
  • Some violations will cause other actions. For example, blowing a reading above 0.02 BAC on an initial test will cause a 5 minute lockout, and any subsequent readings will cause a 30 minute lockout.
  • A BAC reading above 0.02 on a random retest will cause a external alarm to be sounded alerting other people on the roads that your vehicle is a potential hazard. Make sure that you pull over in a convenient and safe location. Once you turn off the engine, you will not be able to restart it until your 5-30 minute lockout is over.

How can I avoid violations?

  • Most accidental violations can easily be avoided by following a few recommendations.
  • Don't eat or drink anything other than water in ten minutes before driving and while driving.
  • Always take a sip of plain water before you provide a breath sample.
  • Always keep engine disconnections to under 20 minutes. Make sure to call Smart Start BEFORE doing any engine work repairs.
  • Never leave the car unattended with the engine running. You may miss a random test.
  • Before turning off your vehicle, make sure that your device is not requesting a random test. If it is, provide a breath sample before turning off the engine.
  • Only allow people you trust to drive your vehicle, and keep in mind that you are still considered responsible for their actions.

For more information on avoiding violations, see our blog post Never clock a false reading again.