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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ignition Interlock Required After First DUI Conviction
New Law Takes Effect July 1

RICHMOND - Tighter restrictions on driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol take effect July 1 when an ignition interlock device will be required for all DUI convictions. Previously, the requirement for an ignition interlock was imposed as a result of two or more DUI convictions or the first DUI conviction if the offender's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was 0.15 percent or above. While 0.08 percent BAC is legally drunk, a driver may be convicted of DUI while driving with a BAC of less than 0.08 percent.

An ignition interlock system connects a vehicle's ignition to an analyzer that measures a driver's blood alcohol content. It prevents the ignition from starting if a driver's BAC exceeds 0.02 percent. The interlock system can perform a rolling retest at random intervals during the operation of the vehicle, which triggers the horn and flashing lights if the operator has a BAC that exceeds 0.02 percent or if the driver fails to take the test.

In 2011 in Virginia, 28,162 drivers were convicted of DUI. "When you drive impaired, not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest can be significant," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative. "To prevent a tragedy from occurring, do not drive after drinking any alcohol, period. With these new restrictions, even one drink could lead to the expense and embarrassment of having an ignition interlock device on your car."

The Virginia General Assembly passed several other traffic safety laws that take effect July 1. If a driver's license applicant fails the behind-the-wheel examination administered by DMV, the applicant must wait two days before taking another behind-the-wheel test.

Also, before taking a behind-the-wheel test administered by DMV, an applicant must first hold a learner's permit for 60 days beginning July 1, instead of the current requirement of 30 days. Before taking the behind-the-wheel exam, applicants must either show documents proving they've completed a state-approved driver education class, or certify that they have practiced the driving maneuvers they will be expected to complete during the behind-the-wheel test.

"Learner's permit holders are encouraged to practice their driving skills with a licensed driver as much as possible during the 60-day period," Holcomb said. "Driving is a complex task that involves concentration and skill. The more experience someone has, the better driver they are."

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