February 28, 2012

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

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