Habeeb / MADD Spread Word About New DUI Law

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Law enforcement officers at last Thursday’s Press Conference.
Law enforcement officers at last Thursday’s Press Conference.

by Beverly Amsler

Virginians convicted of driving under the influence will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle starting July 1st. Virginia is the 16th state in the country to require the device.  Delegate Greg Habeeb helped get the new law through the General Assembly this session and Governor McDonnell signed it into law earlier this month.

“The current law in Virginia is if you have a second DUI or a first DUI of over .15 you have to have an interlock device.  What we’ve done is we’ve moved that down and said for any DUI you have to have an interlock device.  And so what we’re doing is we’re stopping people from becoming repeat offenders.  And it’s not just protecting the public; it’s protecting the drivers as well.”

The device is installed for six months will be removed if the driver doesn’t attempt to drink and drive during that time period.

“The device is part of what goes on, and they have court fines they have to pay as well as court costs; and the installation is part of that process.”  Habeeb says it’s come down to weighing a small financial cost against the lives of Virginians.  “I like to err on the side of innocent citizens.”

The ignition interlock system is one of three steps Mothers Against Drunk Driving is promoting to end drunk driving.  MADD spokesman Chris Konschak says the average drunk driver gets behind the wheel 80 times before being arrested for DUI. He urges everyone to support law enforcement by tying a red ribbon on their vehicle as part of the “Tie One on for Safety” campaign.  He says statistics show one person is killed every 50 minutes from a person with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher and one in every three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.

Advanced technology is the third step in the process to keep impaired drivers off the road.  According to Konschak, car manufacturers are researching technology such as reading the driver’s fingertips as they grab the wheel or the air that person is breathing to check for alcohol.

“All the (car) manufacturers are involved with that as well as the government.  There are federal government funds that are being put into the development and research of it and pending legislation to do a little more work on that.  We’re not asking for it to be mandated because we think the general public will make the demand for that and so we want it to come from the public but we want to make sure the testing has been done on it so that’s where it is right now.”

But Konschak says they have to make sure the technology is full-proof and at a reasonable cost.  “If there’s enough demand (the more cars that it’s put in) of course the cost will come down.”

Konschak is also urging everyone who is going to a March madness party to choose a designated driver for the evening.