Local News

DMV halts certification for ignition-interlock vendors

Posted March 10, 2010 4:31 p.m. EST

— The state Division of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday halted the bid process for ignition-interlock systems, saying no vendor was able to complete the certification process.

An ignition-interlock system prevents a driver from starting a car until a breath analyzer has cleared the driver as being sober enough to get behind the wheel.

North Carolina courts began using the devices in 1989 in drunken-driving cases, and since then, the only firm the DMV has certified to sell the devices in the state is Morrisville-based Monitech Inc.

Last month, Monitech competitor Smart Start Inc. convinced a judge to issue a restraining order to prevent the DMV from completing its assessment of various ignition-lock providers until the Texas-based company’s lawsuit against the DMV is heard.

Smart Start filed suit in January in the Office of Administrative Hearing, alleging that the DMV has unfairly blocked its attempts to sell ignition-interlock systems in North Carolina.

The lawsuit alleges that the DMV selection process requires patents that give Monitech an unfair advantage to win the state business. Court documents also allege that agency employees might have accepted gratuities, which could have influenced their decision on the contract.

By some estimates, the North Carolina market for the ignition-interlock systems is worth $10 million a year.

DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson said he would reopen the certification process after vendor didn't pass the required tests and a second didn't perform the tests properly.

Monitech President Jerry Mobley called the situation "ludicrous."

"It's absolutely false to suggest that Monitech did not pass all required testing," Mobley said.

Smart Start planned to be in court Thursday in an effort to ensure the certification process going forward is fair and reasonable, attorney Dan Boyce said.