Undoubtedly, we run the risk of overlooking certain individuals struggling on the battlefield that COVID-19 has become, and though perhaps not as heroic or glorious as some other marginalized demographics, DUI offenders are now facing serious, possibly life-threatening obstacles.
The devices offenders are required to install and use in their vehicles, aka breathalyzers, it turns out, are set off by the use of hand sanitizer, one of the few essential necessities we have in our already limited arsenal against this relentless pandemic.
To avoid setting off the device, circumventing fines and/or jail time, people must wait 20 minutes to attempt driving again after sanitizing. Is 20 minutes a safe time to wait after being exposed to a deadly virus? Is it a reasonable time to keep groceries in a hot car, additional time spent driving home not withstanding? Is it enough time to discourage an otherwise health-conscious individual from disinfecting altogether?
Given the average person’s already hectic schedule, compounded with newly acquired pressures of living in a world under siege by a pandemic, waiting 20 minutes every time after performing a potentially lifesaving practice, or forgoing it altogether due to the additional inconvenience now posed, is an unreasonable, unsafe and, in some respects, inhumane requisite.
Granted, these are unprecedented times; but it’s the state’s, as well as our own, civic duty to allow modifications to ensure the fundamental safety and rights of our fellow citizens, even, and perhaps especially, those who have broken laws enacted to protect these very freedoms. We’ve stressed the importance of not dismissing our medical professionals, the elderly and other such integral members of the community. Let’s not forget our fellow criminals.
— George Bazley
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the N.C. Department of Transportation, and spokesman Steve Abbott provided the following response: “We understand that during the COVID-19 pandemic, ignition interlock users are inclined to use hand sanitizer more regularly. However, ignition interlock vendors have warned customers since installation that hand sanitizer can cause violations (a potential situation way before the virus hit us). It is in both the documentation provided at installation and in the videos that customers were required to watch.
“Our recommendation continues to be that a driver wait several minutes (at least five minutes, although the longer the better) after applying hand sanitizer to operate the interlock device. Should you choose to attempt to start your vehicle directly after using hand sanitizer, a violation may occur. The division has contaminant review criteria in place if the level of alcohol dissipates within a set period of time. However, some violations may require the driver to address the violation at a hearing.
“Another option is to use only nonalcohol-based sanitizers, as they are also manufactured.”