Breathalyzer Boom: Drunk Drivers with Interlock Device Up 75 Percent in Va.

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A woman walks the white line during a field sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A woman walks the white line during a field sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. — The number of drunk drivers ordered to install breathalyzers in their vehicles has risen 75 percent in Virginia over the last year as a result of a new law.

About 8,500 drivers convicted of a DUI were enrolled in Virginia’s ignition interlock program during the first 11-month period after the enactment of the tougher law, according to data from the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program released by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The new law requires first-time DUI offenders to place the breathalyzer device in every vehicle they own and operate. The court-ordered device measures the offender’s blood alcohol concentration level and prevents a vehicle from starting if the level is higher than 0.02 percent.

Tampering with the device or attempting to circumvent it is a misdemeanor.

The auto club says 229 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in Virginia in 2012, nearly a third of all traffic fatalities. Another 5,861 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes, 8.7 percent of all traffic injuries.

“Advocates fought an uphill battle for five long years to get this law passed in Virginia,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Martha Mitchell Meade said in a news release. “Remarkably, the law is already showing results less than a year after it was enacted. It throws the book at all drunk drivers, and most notably first-time offenders, who were caught red-handed while driving over the legal limit and subsequently convicted of drunk driving.”

Virginia is one of 15 states that have mandatory or court-ordered ignition interlock provisions or laws for drunken driving offenses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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