There are many different ways to implement alcohol interlocks and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ model. It is most important that practitioners identify their needs and priorities and then determine the potential implications of those priorities as part of decision-making. Key decisions that must be made include: who is eligible and ineligible for the program, which agency has responsibility for various aspects delivery (e.g., monitoring, sanctioning, oversight) as well as how workload (e.g., violations such as high-BAC tests) is defined and managed. Practitioners must therefore, have a good sense of available resources and capabilities when making determinations about how devices are applied, to whom, when, and for what length of time. Legislators also play an important role by providing leadership to support effective legislation and the allocation of resources to facilitate delivery of alcohol interlocks. 

The monitoring component of any alcohol interlock program is a key to success. Without proper monitoring, offenders are able to slip through the cracks, are not held accountable for non-compliance, and will not reap the full benefits of supervision while using the device. It is vital that good communication channels exist between all actors in the process including licensing officials, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation officers, and also treatment professionals as appropriate. All of these players must work together in order to determine how best to facilitate the supervision of impaired driving offenders throughout their participation in the program, and to respond to instances of compliance or non-compliance. Failure to do so is likely to result in unsuccessful completion of supervision and may ultimately increase the unlicensed driver population.

The overall goal for programs is to ensure offenders consistently install these devices and successfully complete the interlock program. The retention of offenders in the driver licensing system is important and the sooner they enter an interlock program, the better. If offenders are required to serve long hard suspension periods it increases the likelihood that they will learn that they can drive unlincensed without being detected. It cannot be stressed enough that it is imperative to keep offenders that are considered by courts, probation officers, or licensing officials to be high-risk (based upon accepted protocols or measures) in alcohol interlock programs to protect the public. These drivers present the greatest danger and are also likely to have the highest rate of non-compliance. While practitioners may become frustrated with their actions, this particular population should remain in the program no matter how many violations are recorded, unless other, effective interventions are available as alternatives to better supervise and manage them. Through the use of graduated sanctions and performance-based exit criteria, these offenders can be retained in a program until they demonstrate compliance and an ability to separate drinking from driving.  

In order for an alcohol interlock program to be successful, it must be based on good policies and sound practices. Practitioners should be consulted and engaged in the policy development process so that their input and concerns can be addressed at the outset. Ultimately, decision makers and policy developers need to consider applications that utilize interlocks in a way that is more effective in long-term risk reduction as opposed to being strictly punitive. From the outset, offenders should be encouraged and supported to succeed. Setting offenders up to fail does not benefit anyone in the long run, particularly when the objective is to return drunk drivers to the road as safe and sober drivers. Violations are to be expected, especially within the first few months of program participation, but there should be a system of graduated reinforcements and sanctions established to deal with these issues as they arise. Through effective monitoring, sound policy, accountability, and support, practitioners will have the tools necessary to run a successful alcohol interlock program.

Last updated December 2012