The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Getting There: New state law targets first-time DUI offenders
BY SCOTT SHENK
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
IT’S BEEN on the books since July 1, but the ignition interlock law got the official signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell last week.
At the signing, proponents of the law requiring first-time DUI offenders to have a breathalyzer device in their cars trumpeted it as a lifesaving measure.
And it is.
A lot of people die and are seriously injured every year because of drunken drivers.
Last year alone in Virginia, according to the governor’s office, 245 people died and 5,465 were injured in crashes caused by drivers who’d had too much to drink.
Even before the new law, those convicted of two or more DUIs had to get the ignition interlocks, and that has no doubt saved lives.
Adding first-timers will save even more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, DUI recidivism drops by a median of 67 percent in states with interlocks.
So it’s a good law.
But all this talk about being tough on drunken driving is hard to stomach when, one, the state owns and operates liquor stores and, two, the state sanctions establishments—bars—that are DUI breeding grounds.
In effect, the powers that be are fighting a problem they help create.
So if lawmakers are really serious about saving innocents from drunken drivers, they’d be looking for real preventive solutions, the kind that’ll stop the problem before it happens.
Prohibition, obviously, isn’t the answer.
But the least the state could do is get out of the liquor sales business. It’s hypocritical in more ways than one.
That’s one suggestion.
Here’s another: Instead of making convicted drunken drivers pay through the nose for fines, the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program and court costs (all of which add up to thousands), make them serve the community by providing a taxi service for drunken bar patrons. And make those patrons pay for their rides.
Then donate the proceeds to victims of drunken drivers.
Dear Scott: I travel State Route 3 eastbound every morning on my way to work.
The work zone beginning near Harrison Road is posted at 35 mph. People speed through there all the time.
I used to see a police officer that would stop work zone speeders in the westbound lane.
I haven’t seen him patrolling lately.
People who speed through work zones are either unaware of the work zone speed limit law or they just don’t care.
The area definitely needs to be put back under surveillance.
—Carrie L. Bernd, Orange County
The law is straightforward, but in practice it can be confusing. The Route 3 work zone is clearly posted with 35 mph signs. So that should be clear, right? Well, it is and it isn’t.
How about when there are no workers there?
The answer is straightforward: The work zone speed limit is 35 mph all the time.
The only difference comes in the penalty for speeders.
If you are caught speeding while no workers are in the zone you’ll be fined the normal amount.
But if you speed through a work zone while workers are there, the fine spikes to as much as $500.
What’s worse than a big fine is this: 576 people were killed nationwide in construction zone crashes in 2010, the most recent statistics available.
So remember, there are people in these zones just trying to do a job and they shouldn’t have to worry about being run over by an impatient driver.
Give ’em a brake.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436