If you’ve been charged with DWI in North Carolina, it’s possible you’ll need to have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle. The device is mandatory if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .15 or greater upon arrest, or if you are a second or subsequent offender. It might also be ordered in other cases.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Many people worry that they’ll experience problems and red tape as a result of having the interlock put in. The truth is, thousands of people in the state have the device, and they go about their business every day with no problems. It’s all a matter of learning how to use the device and, of course, avoiding drinking and driving.

If you do have an ignition interlock in North Carolina, here is what you need to know:

  1. You can only drive a vehicle with an interlock on it. Your license is restricted: there are penalties if you are caught driving a vehicle without an interlock.
  2. Others can drive your interlock-equipped vehicle. There’s no reason a family member or friend can’t drive your car – they just need to learn how to use the interlock. But be warned: if they fail the breath test, it will go on your record.
  3. You will need to perform multiple tests while driving. Once you’ve started your car, you will still need to blow while driving, to demonstrate that you did not drink once starting the car. Your interlock installer will show you how to do this safely.
  4. You’ll learn how to avoid false positives. The device only detects alcohol, but some foods, such as pizza dough and fruit, can actually ferment in your mouth and cause a reaction. Washing out your mouth with water should do the trick.
  5. You’ll need to come in for monitoring appointments. The data about your interlock use – tests passed and failed, miles driven, for example – is recorded on your device. At regular intervals you go to a service center and have the device checked and the data downloaded.
  6. You Can’t Fool It. You’ll hear stories about how you can beat an ignition interlock. Attempts to tamper with or bypass the interlock are recorded and sent to authorities. Balloons and other tricks will also fail. The only way to “beat” it is to not drink and drive.
  7. It can change your life. People who go through the interlock program successfully find they are better equipped to refrain from drinking and driving afterwards.

So there’s no need to fear an ignition interlock. Consider it a friend who will help you get back on the road, safely and within the law.

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