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Ignition Interlock Devices Give False Readings – Can It Be?

If you believe that your ignition interlock device has given a false reading, you may be right. While modern interlock devices are advanced and highly accurate, they can give false readings for a variety of different reasons.

A false reading can result from misunderstandings about how the device works, poor use habits or internal malfunction. Even when the reading isn’t your fault, you still have to deal with what happens afterward, such as an unplanned lockout that prevents you from starting your vehicle.

If you understand how these false readings happen, you may be able to avoid them in the future, along with the frustrating consequences that can come with a false reading.


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False Positives from Food, Beverages and Hygiene Products

A variety of food, beverage and hygiene items can result in a false positive. You might be surprised to learn that spicy food is capable of creating a false positive. The way spicy foods react with stomach acids can create excess methane that registers like alcohol when you exhale. Many sports drinks also contain trace amounts of alcohol that may result in a false positive.

However, it’s not even necessary to consume anything. One of the most common culprits is mouthwash. Most mouthwashes and mouth sprays contain alcohol. While the routine amount used for hygiene won’t put your BAC over the legal limit, it can linger in your mouth and cause your breath to register as containing alcohol.

In the same way, tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco can set of sensors inside the device.

To avoid false positives from any consumable source, wait at least fifteen minutes after you’ve eaten, drank anything or smoked tobacco before attempting to operate your ignition interlock device.


The Device Believes it Detects Tampering

It’s important that you always be as careful as possible when using your interlock device. It is designed to be able to detect attempts at manipulating the results. It is possible to trigger these sensors and become locked out if you are careless with the device.

Always handle your interlock devices gently and follow the instruction carefully. Don’t shake the device while using it or try to complete the steps out of order. Don’t hold your device near other sources of forced air during the testing phase, such as car air conditioners.

If you become locked out due to these problems you may have to take the vehicle to a service center to be able to drive it again.


Device Malfunction from Poor Maintenance

Maintenance appointments are an important part of your commitment to using the ignition interlock device. These devices rely on regular calibration and cleaning to work properly. A device may produce a false reading just because there is a buildup of debris inside the testing tube.

You will be given instructions on when to take your device in for calibration. Make sure that you don’t miss any of these appointments. If you’re late, the device may lock you out until after the appointment.

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