Va. drunk driving arrests, ignition interlock installs climb

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — An alleged drunk driver racing the wrong way down I-64 crashes into a car killing one person and himself. A doctor charged with DUI accused of hitting and killing a well- known runner who was training for a marathon. These are the headlines that people in Central Virginia will likely never forget.

“It’s tragic when you find out somebody being killed by a drunk driver and it’s 100 percent preventable. We know there are easy ways not to drink and drive drunk,” MADD’S Chris Konschak said.

Konschake believes that message is still lost on far too many people. In fact, since 2012 Virginia has seen a significant increase in drivers convicted of DUI that are now mandated to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. That’s 8,961 people as of January 2014 compared to 4,725 two years ago.

The blood alcohol testing device, which costs offenders nearly $500 every six months, won’t allow the car to move if the driver doesn’t pass the breathalyzer test.

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Tammy Gobart said if an offender has one installed in their vehicles, national studies have shown that driver is 75 percent less likely to repeat the same offense.

While the increased number of drivers using the ignition interlock devices may signal tougher laws doing what lawmakers intended, Konschak said it also show that there is still plenty of work to do.

As we head into the weekend when many people are planning Super Bowl parties, AAA officials want to remind drivers that added law enforcement officers will be out in force on the lookout for drunk drivers. They encourage anyone who plans to drink to have a designated driver.

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