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It is not uncommon for those convicted of driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina to ask the court to reinstate their driving privileges. And it’s not uncommon for courts to require those drivers to agree to certain conditions that often include the installation of an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.

Ignition interlocks require you to blow into the device before starting the car. If it detects an unallowable level of alcohol in your breath, the vehicle can’t be started or driven. But a new investigative report suggests that the devices themselves are dangerous distractions for drivers and can result in vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities.

One of the problems with ignition interlocks is that they require breath-testing even after the vehicle is moving. These “rolling retests” are random and require the driver to pick up the device and blow into it for several seconds. If a driver fails the test or fails to comply with the demand for a test, the car goes into “panic” mode: horn blaring and lights flashing until the vehicle is pulled over and turned off.

A New York Times investigative report found “dozens of examples of collisions in which the devices played a role.” In one case, a man blew so hard into the device that he passed out and crashed into a tree; a driver doing a rolling retest in New Hampshire crashed into a telephone pole; and a California driver doing a retest crossed into oncoming traffic on a busy highway and struck another vehicle – a crash that resulted in a serious injury to the other driver and the death of her husband.

Drivers have to pay to have an ignition interlock installed – typically about $75, plus a monthly monitoring cost that adds up to $60 to $100.

Wilmington drivers facing a DWI charge often turn to an attorney experienced in drunk driving defense to avoid the worst possible punishments under North Carolina law.