With the holidays approaching in Virginia and elsewhere, law enforcement will be out in force to keep impaired drivers from operating a motor vehicle on public streets. The White House has also set the word out concerning the dangers of impaired driving by recently declaring December 2017 as National Impaired Driving Awareness Month.
The statement from the White House outlines some troubling statistics regarding impaired driving. It points out that an impaired driving death occurs in the U.S. every 50 minutes on average, or more than 10,000 deaths per year. Of all traffic fatalities, impaired driving takes part in 28 percent. Though impaired driving deaths are a smaller percentage of motor vehicle deaths than in past decades, the number is still high.
DUI laws in Virginia are designed to prevent individuals from drinking and driving. A blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is considered legally impaired. For those under the age of 21, a BAC of .02 or higher is enough for conviction. An equivalent level of impairment due to narcotics is considered impairment under the law, and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test might lead to a conviction. Driving under the influence is considered a misdemeanor, even for the first offense.
Penalties for a DUI offense remain strict in Virginia. A first offense may bring a monetary penalty and the loss of driving privileges for a year. A subsequent conviction within 10 years can result in the loss of driving privileges for 3 years, a higher fine and the possibility of a jail sentence. If convictions are within 5 years, a 20-day jail sentence is mandatory. These penalties do not include potential indirect consequences, such as higher insurance rates or loss of employment.