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Overly sensitive device leaving Comox Valley driver stranded with her children

Comox Valley resident Denise Eigler admits she made a mistake when she drove after drinking, but she
Comox Valley resident Denise Eigler admits she made a mistake when she drove after drinking, but she's dealing with an overly sensitive interlock ignition device in her vehicle.
— image credit: Erin Haluschak

It's a device that enables Denise Eigler to start and drive her vehicle, but it has failed so many times the Comox Valley woman no longer wants to drive her car.

Eigler received a DUI in 2008, and served a one-year driving suspension, paid thousands in court and other fines, and as part of a responsible driving program, installed an interlock ignition device in her vehicle.

Ever since mid-November when the temperature has dropped, Eigler said the device has given her false readings multiple times, stranding her inside her vehicle with her children.

"I made a big mistake," explained Eigler. "I'm three years sober; I was an alcoholic, but I'm in recovery. I'm a good, strong person and I'm confident in what I'm doing, and it's discouraging to have that machine tell me something different."

Eigler had the device installed in her vehicle in April through a company contracted by Alcolock (formerly Guardian Interlock Service) in Nanaimo.

"It started to give me false readings and on two different occasions, it left me stranded on the side of the road. I have four kids aged four, eight, 10 and a disabled 10-year-old, and I had to walk them home for two kilometres in the middle of November at eight in the morning," she noted.

On another occasion following prompting by the machine for a test, Eigler blew and failed, and after receiving a ride from her father, went to the RCMP station to ask for a breathalyzer.

"They allowed me to take the test and I passed. I went back for my van and blew again and failed."

Eigler said she does not want to drive the vehicle, particularly with her children inside, because she can't guarantee their safety to get them where they need to go.

She contacted the company when the machine began failing and received a second handset, which continues to give her false readings.

"Anything can trigger false readings — if you've had coffee, brushed your teeth, have a wet dog in the car, have a toddler spit up, or even use your windshield wipers," she added.

Eigler wrote a formal complaint to the company, which suggested she continue to drive the vehicle if the test fails despite an alarm sounding.

She noted she paid $1,000 to have the machine installed, in addition to $150 per month in monitoring fees and will have to pay $1,000 in April to have the machine uninstalled. Eigler said while she is wanting to take responsibility for her actions by maintaining her end of the contract, the company and ICBC is not keeping up their end.

"People need to be aware that if you're going to drink and drive, there are going to be consequences, but I'm keeping appointments for maintenance, and paying the fees, and it's not working."

Superintendent of Motor Vehicles Sam MacLeod said in a statement while he can't comment of the specifics of a case, the ministry is aware of the situation and is following up with the service provider.

"In cases like this one, we encourage drivers to work with the service provider to resolve any technical issues or concerns. I understand that Alcolock Canada is actively investigating the matter, and a member of their team will be in contact with the driver to address this issue directly," he said.

On Friday, a representative from Alcolock tested Eigler's vehicle and provided her with a new handset.

Eigler said they tested her vehicle for ethanol and suggested the false reading could be coming from chemicals in her vehicle's carpets.

"They brought a brand new handset directly from the manufacturer and tested it at their shop in Vancouver. They plugged it into my van and it immediately failed," she explained, and added they suspect by turning the heat on in the vehicle, it may be circulating chemicals in the carpets, such as Scotchguard.

Eigler noted she plans to put the van in the garage with a heater and steam clean the carpets with hot water. If that fails, they suggested she open the door and stand outside when prompted to take the test, she added.

"I'm not the only one and I won't be last who is having these problems. I'm trying hard to be good and honest, and the machine is slapping me in the face."

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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