Differing opinions on effectiveness of ignition interlock device

Posted at 12:09 AM, Jul 04, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-04 00:09:49-04

Richmond, Va. (WTVR)--As fireworks light up the sky this Independence Day, police will be lighting up the roads in search of drunk drivers.

“If you’re stopped for driving under the influence, you will be arrested,” says Sgt. Thomas Molnar, with Virginia State Police.  He says you’ll also face a tougher punishment. 

Anyone convicted of driving intoxicated will have to install an ignition interlock device on their car, including first time offenders. “It’s on your work vehicle and personal vehicle,” says Molnar.

An ignition interlock is a device that can test a driver’s breath and prevent the vehicle from starting if your blood alcohol content level exceeds .02 percent. It also requires testing mid-drive.

“We know this has worked in other states,” says Chris Konschak with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Konschak tells CBS 6 that fatalities from drunk driving in other states decreased by up to 50 percent in some cases. 

Konschak says he’s relieved to see a law that finally works and hopes for the same results in Virginia.

“We’ve been trying lots of different things to stop drunk driving. The penalties have increased, jail time, different things like that, but nothing appears to be stopping drunk driving,” says Konschak.

This time last year, state police arrested 117 drunk drivers and responded to 14 deadly accidents, with, according to Molnar, alcohol being the culprit.

Even though state lawmakers approved of this stringent law to make drivers think twice, defense attorney, Bob Battle says, he thinks it’s too harsh on new offenders.

Battle tells CBS 6 he’s going to make sure his clients aren’t subjected to the device he calls, faulty.

“I had a woman who twice on her way to work, had it fail,” says Battle. “So, she’s showing up late.”

Other complain about special interest groups who lobbied for the new law in interest of making money from the law. The new law is expected to markedly increase the number of interlock devices installed in Virginia.

Installation of the devices costs several hundred dollars and the interlock device must be purchased from one of four licenses interlock vendors in the state.