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DUI Arrests Up, DUI Accidents Down

Across Virginia, the number of convicted drunk drivers ordered to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles has drastically increased since the Commonwealth enacted tougher drunk driving penalties a year and a half ago.

FREDERICK COUNTY, Va. - DUI arrest are up, but crashes and fatalities are down in Frederick County, and that's how the sheriff's department wants it to be.

"Last year Virginia added to it's first defense DUI conviction list the necessity of an interlock ignition device," said Lieutenant Warren Gosnell of the Frederick County’s Sheriff Office.

The device forces a driver to blow into a breathalyzer prior to starting the vehicle.

"They blow into it and if it reads zero alcohol in their system it will allow the car to start, and they can operate it. If it detects any alcohol the vehicle won't start,” Gosnell explained.

According to the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program, almost 9,000 drivers are currently enrolled in the interlock program. That's up from approximately 5,000 drivers just last year.

"It’s meant from keeping people from inadvertently or otherwise operating a vehicle with alcohol in their system," Gosnell said.

At the end of the day, officials are simply trying to protect their citizens. The horrors of drunken driving accidents linger long after people are gone. Five people were killed on 522 South and West Parkins Mill from a drunken driving accident, and are still remembered years later, with wreaths and crosses left at the site of the accident.

"While we're one of the toughest states, I can tell you here in Frederick County, we're starting to see a downward trend in the things we want to see a downward trend in. Alcohol related crashes were down 39 percent this past year,” Gosnell said.

And alcohol related deaths in Frederick County were also down 50 percent.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia also make it mandatory to install an interlock ignition device on vehicles after a first offense DUI conviction. In Maryland, it becomes mandatory only if an individual has a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.

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