Various states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington, have already enacted laws requiring first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock systems into their vehicles. These devices are similar to breathalyzers and are installed into the vehicle’s dashboard. The engine will not start until the driver blows into the device and has a low reading (according to the programmed blood alcohol concentration, BAC).
Virginia has proposed a similar law that would require drivers who are convicted for a first time DUI offense to install an ignition interlock in Virginia, even if there was a low BAC at the time of arrest. This proposed law would revise the state’s existing law that requires ignition interlocks for repeat DUI offenders and for those who were arrested with a high BAC in Virginia.
This proposed law, and similar proposed laws in other states, has been a topic of many intense debates, which is discussed in the article, “Ignition Interlocks for First Time Offenders is a Heated Topic.” The critics of this law feel that the requirement of an ignition interlock for a first time DUI offender is unfair and basically gives the same punishment to that driver as someone who has multiple DUI offenses. Opponents to the law believe that ignition interlocks do not solve the problem of drunk driving. A former MADD president was even quoted as saying that the drunk driving problem has been reduced to “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”
Advocates of the law have cited a 2008 study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, which showed that interlock devices in New Mexico reduced the number of repeat DUI offenses by about two-thirds in the state. However, critics believe that this decline could also be contributed to other factors, such as education programs.
If laws, such as the one being proposed in Virginia, are passed, many feel that judges will not have the ability to distinguish between drivers who have had a few drinks and barely go over the legal limit and those who go way over.
Based on a proposed bill, if you have been convicted of DUI in Virginia, you would be required to install an ignition interlock even if your BAC was below 0.15 percent. The bill, known as House Bill 2041, would revise the current state law that requires only repeat DUI offenders and drivers with a BAC above 0.15 percent to install these devices. This bill is being discussed for the second year in a row and many Virginia legislators are concerned. If it passes, Virginia would join eight other states that have similar laws.
An ignition interlock system is a small handheld device that attaches to the dashboard. Before a driver can start the car, he or she has to blow into the device, which will measure BAC. The driver is also required to blow into the device at designated times while driving. The engine will only start if the driver’s BAC is lower than .02 percent.
According to a member of the House Courts of Justice committee, the cost of obtaining and installing the ignition interlock system is estimated at $455.
Del. Sal Iaquinto R-84 is the sponsor of the bill and believes that if passed, it will deter repeat DUI offenses. He said that there is a 64 percent decline in DUI recidivism after the ignition interlock system is installed.
Critics of the bill are concerned that it could negatively impact people who need to drive for their jobs and people with multiple vehicles. Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-68 said that since so many people rely on company vehicles for their jobs, the proposed bill could have “desperate impact on a large number of people.”
If the bill is passed, it will go into effect January 1, 2010.