Only 3 out of 10 Convicted DWI Offenders in New York Install Mandatory Ignition Interlock Device

Since 2010, all drivers convicted of DWI in New York must use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for a minimum of six months. The device will not allow the car to start if alcohol, which can be as low as .025%, is detected in the driver’s breath. This zero tolerance policy started as a provision under New York’s “Leandra’s Law”, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act.

State government records are showing that many convicted DWI offenders are evading the issue of installing an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, and a review of the records since the law was implemented two years ago show that as many as 23,000 motorists have avoided the installation of the device, often by simply selling their car or signing ownership over to a family member.

But convicted DWI offenders are still operating vehicles without the device, and in some cases while they are intoxicated. Some are still driving their original vehicle and some are being caught driving their friends’ cars.

Case in point: Nicholas Santaniello of West Seneca was convicted of DWI and complied with the law by having the ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle. The device requires monthly calibrations to check proper operation and to document any ‘fails’ on the device. For one of these calibrations, Santaniello arrived in his friend’s car, and Santaniello’s car was driven by his friend. Law enforcement was tipped off and when they arrived and tested Santaniello for alcohol, they discovered he had enough alcohol in his system to prevent his car from starting through the device. He was charged with operating a vehicle without an interlock device and operating a vehicle in violation of a restricted license. The friend was charged with facilitating operation to a person court-ordered to use an interlock device and operating without a license.

The compliance with the new ignition interlock device law has been just 30%. Each county in New York has an agency which monitors compliance and informs judges about the drivers who refuse to abide by the rules, or drivers who have failed to start their vehicle with the device.

State lawmakers are considering options on how to address the loophole with the law. Long Island Republican Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. has suggested that offenders who do not participate in the interlock device program wear “transdermal alcohol monitoring devices” such as the ankle bracelet.

Gov. Cuomo has successfully pushed for tougher drunk driving legislation recently, and tighter restrictions on licensing is a way the administration is handling repeat offenders.

New, innovative technology, such as SmartStart’s ignition interlock devices with Photo ID modules, can be a way to skirt the issue of friends helping friends bypass the device nefariously.