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Ignition interlock devices: long-term solution to DUI problems?

Regular readers of our Leesburg DUI defense blog will recall that we took a look at ignition interlock device research back in early November of last year. Because installation of the devices is one of the punishments Virginians often wish to avoid after a DUI arrest, we decided to take another look at these sophisticated pieces of electronics.

Let’s start with a quick review of who is required by the Commonwealth of Virginia to have an ignition interlock device installed.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is clear: “If you are convicted of a DUI first offense, the court will require that you have an ignition interlock device installed on at least one vehicle.” And if you are convicted of a second drunk driving violation, you will be required to have the gadgets installed on all vehicles you own, co-own or operate as well – at your expense.

The federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted in a report last year that while research shows that ignition interlock devices are effective, they only change driver behavior while they are installed in a vehicle. Once they have been removed, drivers return to their previous habits.

As the NHTSA notes, “Once ignition interlocks are removed from a vehicle...recidivism rates of ignition interlock users increase and resemble the rates for offenders for whom interlocks were not required.”

So the devices are a short-term band-aid approach to helping people change their behaviors. They have little, if any, long-term effects, according to the research.

They can cost many hundreds of dollars in installation and maintenance fees, however, and are one of the items those charged with drunken driving discuss with Loudoun County attorneys experienced in DUI defense. 

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