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Virginia county has fewer DUI deaths, but more arrests

Law enforcement officials in Frederick County say that a nearly 40 percent drop in DUI-related accidents last year is in part because of a new Virginia law. That law, which took effect last year, requires people convicted of DUI to have an interlock ignition device installed in their vehicle -- even when it is their first offense.

This device requires a driver to blow into an apparatus that acts as a Breathalyzer before the vehicle will start. If the device detects any alcohol at all on a person's breath, the car will be inoperable. The number of drivers with this system installed in their car has nearly doubled in the past year -- up from about 5,000 to nearly 9,000.

Virginia is not the only state with this requirement. Our neighbors in West Virginia as well as Pennsylvania also mandate the device with a first-time conviction for DUI. It is mandatory in Maryland, but only if the defendant is found to have a blood alcohol content of at least .15 at the time of the crash.

A spokesman for the Frederick County's Sheriff Office notes that Virginia is "one of the toughest states" when it comes to drinking and driving, and that the stricter measures are paying off. In addition to the drop in alcohol-related accidents, he says that deaths caused by alcohol dropped by half.

The state's tough stance on drunk driving is also impacting the number of arrests, at least in Frederick County. DUI arrests are up in that county, according to the sheriff's department.

Of course, no one should drink and drive anywhere, any time. However, if you are convicted of drunk driving, even if you are minimally over the legal limit, under Virginia law, you will need to have an interlock ignition device installed in your car. This is probably not something you want to explain to a co-worker, date or family member who gets in your car. That's why it is never wise to fight these charges alone or to plead guilty without first consulting an attorney. A DUI conviction can have lifelong ramifications.

Source: WHAG-TV, "DUI Arrests Up, DUI Accidents Down" Merris Badcock, Feb. 06, 2014

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