Ignition interlock device: Tougher DUI laws proposed

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You already face tough penalties if you get caught driving drunk, but the punishment could get even tougher.

A new bill in the General Assembly would require first time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock device.

Ignition interlocks force drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before the car will start. Opponents say this bill is going too far to punish drunk drivers.

Every convicted drunk driver in Virginia would have to install one of these ignition interlock devices if a new bill proposed by Richmond Senator Donald McEachin passes.

"What we're trying to do is send a message to the community that drunk driving is not acceptable," McEachin said.

Similar bills have been proposed in the past but didn't go anywhere. NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says the law currently requires one of these devices for any driver convicted of multiple DUIs or just one DUI with a blood alcohol level over 0.15. The legal limit is 0.08. Benjamin says the biggest problem is finding enough ignition interlock devices.

"It's unfair, quite frankly," he said. "To require a driver to have an interlock device on their car if we can't provide those devices for installation."

We asked people out on the town today what they think of the bill. Some say lawmakers should do whatever they can to cut down on the number of drunk drivers, while other people say this bill is going too far.

Pamela Davis says judges shouldn't have to wait for a second DUI conviction before ordering drunk drivers to install an ignition interlock.

"They may have driven drunk many times and only been caught once," Davis said.  "I think that would really nip it in the bud."

Philip Nichols has a friend that had one of these devices on her car. He says the law shouldn't assume people won't learn from their mistakes and the devices can be irritating.

"You have to blow into it to get your car started," he said.  "If you don't do it correctly the first time, you have to wait a minute or something so it can recalibrate so you can do it again."

Nearly every state has laws allowing convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks, mostly for repeat offenders.

New York, Utah and New Mexico are examples of states where first-time offenders are required to install the device.

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