If you have the misfortune of being a member of the Registry’s Ignition Interlock Program, your vehicle’s windshield washer fluid might cost you to lose your license. This is because ignition interlock devices might be “alcohol-specific” but they are not ethanol specific. There are many different types of alcohol and the alcohol that is in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol or ethanol.
To prevent it from freezing, windshield washer fluid contains methanol or methyl alcohol. You will see that this particular brand of washer fluid won’t freeze even if the temperature drops to twenty degrees below zero. Mr. Randolph Atkins, a top scientist from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is a federal government agency that publishes the specifications for Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) has admitted in writing that ignition interlock devices are NOT ethanol specific. This means that the IID cannot differentiate between the methyl alcohol in your windshield washer fluid and the ethyl alcohol contained in beer, wine, and liquor.
I have personally seen cases where the ignition interlock user would use his windshield washer to clean the vehicle’s windshield and inhale the washer fluid vapors through the vehicle’s ventilation system. When the interlock user takes a rolling re-test, he will blow breath containing methanol vapors into the interlock device and it will trigger a failed rolling re-test. These rolling re-tests can result in a 10-year license revocation!
I have successfully defended a client from failed rolling re-tests and a 10-year license loss when he kept a bottle of windshield washer fluid in his vehicle. The cap was not on tightly and the fluid spilled. That spill caused false ignition interlock readings and he was forced to appear before the Board of Appeal, where I got the revocation reversed.
If you have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, you should be extremely careful with windshield washer fluid. If you experience a false violation, you should take steps to protect yourself and save your license. You should immediately call your service provider and the Registry of Motor Vehicles at 857-368-7180. You should also immediately go to the nearest police station and ask for a comparison breath test. Also, if you experience an invalid lockout, you should contest the lockout in accordance with the terms of the Ignition Interlock Operator’s Affidavit that you signed when you joined the program.