Ignition interlock bill signed

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Brian Hill
Capital News Service

Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will require first-time DUI offenders in Virginia to install a Breathalyzer in their vehicle to prevent them from driving while intoxicated.

As a result of McDonnell’s signature of House Bill 279, beginning July 1, all Virginians convicted of DUI will have to have ignition interlocks installed in their vehicles. Currently, that requirement applies only to repeat offenders.

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Virginia will “join just 15 other U.S. states in requiring this proven effective technology for all persons convicted of drunk driving,” Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, said last week. His group campaigns against drunken driving.

The General Assembly this session passed two bills — HB 279 and Senate Bill 378 — mandating ignition interlocks after the first DUI offense. McDonnell has not acted yet on the Senate bill.

Under the legislation, if a court requires the installation of an ignition interlock system, the clerk will file a copy of the order with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. This order would become part of the offender’s restricted driver’s license.

Within 30 days of the court order, DUI offenders would have to provide proof that the ignition interlock system has been installed. The court reserves the right to revoke the offender’s driving privilege for failing to install the system on time or have it properly monitored and calibrated.

The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving is grateful that both chambers of the General Assembly have approved SB 378 and HB 279.

“This is lifesaving legislation that MADD has been working to get passed for six years,” said Chris Konschak, manager of the Virginia office of MADD.

People convicted of their first DUI offense are less likely to re-offend if they have to install an ignition interlock on their vehicles, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Opponents of drunken driving predict that the recidivism rates will drop significantly.

“Ignition interlocks have the ability to stop a person from driving drunk,” Konschak said. “They also have a deterrent effect on potential drunken drivers.”