April 16, 2012
New Virginia Ignition Interlock Law Sparks Debate
Virginia’s recently-passed ignition interlock law has set off a debate between groups battling drunk driving and those that represent offenders about whether the new law goes too far.
An ignition interlock system works by disabling the car if the driver has been drinking. A car with an installed ignition interlock will not start if the driver blows into an attached Breathalyzer and registers a certain level of alcohol on his or her breath. To discourage a friend from taking the test for the driver, the system requires that the driver blow into the device at random times while the vehicle is in motion.
The new law, which takes effect in July, will require virtually all first time DUI offenders-whether they were highly intoxicated or just slightly over the legal limit-to install ignition interlocks in their cars. The former law only required repeat offenders and those with a blood alcohol level above .14 to install ignition interlocks.
As a result of the new law, about four times the number of people will be required to install ignition interlocks. Each offender will have to pay for the installation, which is not cheap-about $480 for a six-month installation.
Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving contend that ignition interlocks reduce repeat offenses. Such groups say that the 274 alcohol-related motorist deaths and 5,500 injures during 2010 warrant the tough measures.
However, public defenders and some lawyers say that the law goes too far. They contend that the new law will encourage more cases to go to trial, taxing an already overburdened court system. In addition, they say that the interlock installation and maintenance fees will disproportionately affect low-income drivers.
Source: “Is Va.’s ignition-interlock rule for first-time DUI offenders too tough?” Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post, 4/8/12
February 28, 2012
Virginia Steps Closer to Ignition Interlock for 1st Time DUI
First-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenders could soon be forced to install an ignition interlock system on their cars. The Senate recently passed House Bill 279, which extends current ignition interlock requirements to those who’ve been convicted of only one DUI.
Virginia requires an ignition interlock device for repeat DUI offenders — those who’ve been convicted two or more times. But that may soon change. Based on statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), an ignition interlock system could affect nearly 30,000 people in Virginia, at least that was the number of convicted DUI offenders in 2010.
An ignition interlock system essentially disables a car if the driver has been drinking. A car equipped with ignition interlock will not start if the driver blows into the attached Breathalyzer and registers above a 0.02 BAC. The driver will also be required to blow into the device at random intervals while the car is in motion.
If the interlock system does detect alcohol in the driver’s system, after a retest to confirm, the car’s horn will sound and the lights will flash. The ignition interlock system is intended to notify law enforcement that someone is getting behind the wheel despite being impaired.
This is the sixth year in a row that an ignition interlock law has come up in the Virginia legislature. The bill was modified to apply to first-time DUI offenders only if their blood-alcohol concentration was 0.12 or greater. The Senate rejected the change and the bill, as-is, has now passed both the House and the Senate and is headed to Governor McDonnell’s desk.
Source: Loudoun Times, “Senate requires ignition interlocks for drunken drivers” Brian Hill, February 26, 2012