RICHMOND National leaders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving were at the General Assembly this past week to support a bill requiring that all drunken-driving offenders in Virginia, including some first-time offenders, install alcohol ignition interlocks in their vehicles.
MADD representatives and the bills sponsor, Delegate Sal Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach, held a press conference to discuss House Bill 1442 and urged the Senate to pass the legislation. The House of Delegates approved the bill Tuesday by an 80-18 vote.
The only way to ensure that convicted drunk drivers stop harming people is to make sure that they do not drink and drive again, Iaquinto said. This bill does that and will make the commonwealths roadways safer for all Virginia families.
MADD National President Glynn Birch said the first step toward curbing drunken driving is implementing proven solutions.
One solution is alcohol ignition interlocks, which could not only save thousands of lives but also give offenders the ability to drive without endangering the public, Birch said.
The alcohol ignition interlock device is a Breathalyzer linked to the vehicles ignition system. To start the vehicle, the driver must first blow into the device. The device reads the drivers blood-alcohol level. If the level exceeds a set limit in this case, 0.02, meaning 0.02 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of blood the vehicle will not start. The vehicle will not start if the driver does not take the breath test.
Currently, Virginia law requires ignition interlocks be installed in the vehicles of second or subsequent drunken-driving offenders or first-time offenders whose blood alcohol content is at or above 0.15.
Iaquinto said the purpose of this bill is not to punish but to protect drivers. He said drunken drivers should be reminded of the mistake that they made.
If passed, the bill would require the interlock to remain on a drivers vehicle for at least six consecutive months. The offender also would be required to pay the costs of maintenance and installation.
We know that the technology works, said Chuck Hurley, national chief executive officer of MADD. Now, we need to implement these advances on our roads, every day in every state across the nation. Too many drunk-driving offenders are back on the road, and it is our duty to ensure that they do not risk the lives of others and that they only drive while sober.