Effective July 1, 2012, Virginia has joined 16 other states in requiring an ignition interlock device to be placed on vehicles of those who are arrested for a DUI.
Virginia previously required this device for repeat offenders, but the new law will require even first-time offenders to have an ignition interlock device in place. Several groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving are hailing Virginia’s new law as a way to put an end to drunk driving in that state.
An ignition interlock device requires drivers to blow into a tube before the car can be started. To prevent drunk drivers from having another individual start the automobile, drivers will have to blow into the device periodically while the car is in motion. This also prevents individuals who are sober when they begin driving from consuming alcohol, thereby becoming intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle.
Each time a user blows into an ignition interlock device, the results are monitored by probation officers. Those who monitor these results are already hailing the new law as an effective measure against drunk driving, claiming that they have seen instances where an individual was preventing from operating a vehicle after registering a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
Law enforcement officials also feel that since drivers must blow into the device from time to time, they have plenty of opportunity to think about the consequences of their actions. Most hope that drivers will be inconvenienced enough by having to do so that they will reconsider drinking and driving once the restriction has been lifted.
Another factor that could deter repeat offenders is the cost of an ignition interlock device. These devices cost between $50 to $100 to install on most vehicles. In addition, the offender must pay a monthly monitoring fee for the service, which can also be between $50 and $100. The minimum amount of time a driver must operate with one of these devices is six months.
One of the benefits of having an ignition interlock device installed is the fact that DUI offenders do not have to forgo driving altogether. Since being able to drive to and from work is often a condition of employment, those who are arrested for a DUI can continue to be gainfully employed, which benefits society as a whole. Whether or not a defendant receives a conditional license restricting driving that is not employment-related is solely at the discretion of the judge who presides over the case.
Other states will follow Virginia’s lead and will require DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles. Passing similar laws could not only improve public safety, but be beneficial to DUI offenders as well. This is because they will be less likely to suffer a subsequent arrest, which could result in jail time or the loss of a driver’s license for an extended period.