- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — The Virginia House of Delegates yesterday passed legislation requiring ignition interlock devices on the cars of first-time convicted drunken drivers.

The measure, proposed by Delegate Salvatore R. Iaquinto, passed by a vote of 80-18.

Virginia law currently requires an ignition interlock device upon a second conviction for driving under the influence. A driver must blow into the device to start his car. If the driver has alcohol on his breath, the car won’t start.

Mr. Iaquinto, Virginia Beach Republican, said mandating the device after the first offense will save lives.

Some delegates said the measure goes too far.

“You’re bringing a hammer to kill a fly,” said Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin, Portsmouth Democrat. Mr. Melvin said most people who get one DUI never get another.

“They’re chagrined, they’re embarrassed, and they’re lighter in the pocket,” he said.

If Mr. Iaquinto’s bill becomes law, he said, not only will first-time offenders have to blow into an interlock, so will their spouses and any driving-age children who use the car.

Mr. Melvin said he is satisfied with the current law.

“But this is a wide, wide net you’re casting here. You’re not just getting the guy who sits at the bar and drinks three or four shots. You’re getting your aunts who have wine at somebody’s house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You’re getting your own relatives, your own friends,” Mr. Melvin said.

Mr. Iaquinto argued, however, that other attempts to crack down on drunken driving — lowering the blood-alcohol standard to .08 percent and increasing fines and jail terms — don’t seem to be working. He said New Mexico reported a 20 percent reduction in drunken-driving fatalities after requiring the interlock after a first conviction.

“Are we going to wait until after someone decimates another family because they were drunk while driving to implement a penalty?” Mr. Iaquinto asked.

Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, said he frequently sees defendants in court “bawling like a baby” because they drove drunk and killed someone.

“Until people stop driving drunk, I intend to keep coming down here and increasing punishments until it stops,” Mr. Albo said. “This is a front-end way to make people stop.”

Mr. Melvin suggested that many of his colleagues who voted for the measure, which faces a vote in the Senate, did so thinking, “Thank God for the body down the hall, which will kill it.”

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