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Drinking and Driving Laws in D.C.

If you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.08 or above, in any of the states, you can be charged with a drinking and driving offense. However, depending on where you live, the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol may vary. Laws are enacted to prevent tragic car accidents and personal injuries from occurring due to an intoxicated driver, but sadly, drunk driving incidents still occur every day. In efforts to continue to improve the safety of motorists, D.C. is stepping up and enforcing strict penalties towards drivers who drive under the influence. Here’s what’s new in D.C.’s drinking and driving laws:

Ignition Interlock Device

In July of 2016, Washington, D.C., joined states like Maryland and Virginia, requiring the use of ignition interlock devices for first and second offenders of drunk driving. For years, organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have lobbied for tougher laws, penalties, and ignition interlock devices for drunk driving offenders. Currently, with D.C. added to the list, there are 28 states that require interlocking devices.

An ignition interlock device prevents drunk driving offenders from operating a vehicle unless it is proven that he or she has a BAC below the legal limit, typically between .02 and .04, by breathing into the device, which acts like a Breathalyzer. If the ignition interlock device detects a level higher than the state’s BAC limits, the vehicle will not start.

First-time drunk driving offenders, along with other penalties, are required to use the device for six months and second offenders are required for one year. While the device may help keep some dangerous drivers off of the road, it’s difficult to know if it will fix the problem of drinking and driving.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

The ignition interlock device law is part of D.C.’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative Towards Zero Deaths. D.C. is busy with motorist, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. Although D.C. is considered a pedestrian and bicycle friendly city, thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists are injured in the Washington Metropolitan region each year. In D.C., pedestrians make up more than 40% of the total number of people killed in traffic accidents. Although accidents involving motorists and bicyclists/pedestrians can occur for any number of reasons from motorist distractions to failing to follow signs or the rules of the road, drunk driving may also put thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians at risk. By strengthening the laws surrounding drunk driving, pedestrians and bicyclists may be a bit safer.

What’s Next?

As Washington D.C., takes a stricter stance on drunk driving, perhaps other states will become inspired to make their roads a little safer by following suit. Although an ignition interlock device will not prevent all drunk driving accidents from occurring, it may make more drivers think twice before getting behind the wheel of the car the next time they drink alcohol.

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