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The breathtaking results of Virginia’s ignition interlock law

Scott Leamon used to think that Roanoke was the worst of the worst when it came to DUIs in Virginia. Ten years later, the crime prevention specialist for the city’s police department believes that ramped up enforcement, education and awareness has made a significant difference in reducing local drunk driving arrests.

Not to mention the all-offender law passed in July 2012 that requires DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices. The Commonwealth is part of a larger contingency throughout the nation that has already prevented 2.3 million potential drunk drivers from starting their vehicles.

Yet, the “successful” law still fails to distinguish first-time offenders from multiple-time drunk drivers. For those with the cleanest of criminal records, the penalty is particularly severe both financially and personally.

Selfies And Other Intrusive Innovations

What some see as continuing improvements to the systems’ overall reliability, others see as intrusive, if not outright invasions of privacy. The addition of –in-vehicle cameras takes a picture of the entire vehicle during every breath test. As part of the monthly calibrations, images are reviewed to identify who is truly smiling for the camera.

The first test is only the beginning. Drivers must also submit to a second breathalyzer one minute after starting the vehicle to ensure continuing compliance. That seemingly unnecessary step sixty seconds later seems to fly in the face of the science surrounding the body’s absorption of alcohol.

Testing does not end there. Each hour of driving will lead to another breathalyzer. Road trips once considered fun and relaxing become an endless battery of breath tests. Failure or a false positive at any point will result in blaring horns and flashing headlights. The cacophony “outs” the embarrassed driver and warns passers-by of their presence.

Old Dominion DUIs In Decline

For just turning five, Virginia’s relatively young law can already boast significant accomplishments. In its first year, Roanoke drunk driving arrests were at 474. The second and third years showed no signs of “Terrible Twos” or “Terrible Threes” as arrests continued their declines to 364 and 209 respectively. The fourth year saw a drop to 215 with an uptick to 265 at the time if it’s commemorative “birthday.”

Similar to its namesake “slim” cigarettes, Virginia has come a long way. But, at what cost to their citizens’ rights, privacy and dignity?

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