A deadly DUI crash in Virginia Beach that also left a car's passenger hospitalized and fighting for his life proved that while the state has taken great strides to prevent drunk driving, much work remains to be done to keep alcohol-impaired drivers off the roads of the commonwealth.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving on January 15, 2015, awarded Virginia four out of five stars for enacting and enforcing laws that make it difficult for individuals suspected and convicted of driving drunk to repeat their reckless and negligent actions. Thirteen states meet MADD's criteria for doing the maximum legislatively and administratively to prevent and punish DUI/DWI offenses. Those steps are
- Require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers
- Conduct sobriety checkpoints
- Create enhanced penalties for those who drive drunk with children in the vehicle
- Participate in “no-refusal” activities for those suspected of drunk driving
- Utilize administrative license revocation for drunk driving offenders
Virginia fell short only by not mandating the Breathalyzer-like ignition interlocks for first-offense drunk driving convictions. Even though most people found guilty of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol do get ordered to have the engine-killing devices installed, state laws requires evidence of a blood alcohol content of at least .15 rather than .08 for imposing that safeguard.
It is unclear, however, whether requiring an ignition interlock would have prevented the DUI tragedy that occurred nearly exactly one week after MADD's rating announcement. At around 2:30 am on January 23, 2015, a woman who tests showed to have been drunk, ran off Shore Drive between First Landing State Park and Pacific Avenue, crashed into a couple of trees and lost her life. A passenger in the car sustained critical injuries and remained hospitalized into the weekend.
The one thing that could have spared a life and saved another person from potential lifelong disability would have been deciding not to drive after drinking too much. No law, police check or court penalty can substitute for individual responsibility. While Virginia lawmakers and law enforcement officials can certainly do more, as MADD urges, we all hold the key to stopping drunk driving in our hands. Not ironically, that means setting down the car keys.