In 2012, the Commonwealth of Virginia drastically increased penalties for driving under the influence. One change at the time was the mandate that all DUI convictions, including first time offenders, come with an interlock period. First time offenders are now required to have an interlock device installed for a six-month period that includes monthly calibrations and no violations. You cannot avoid this requirement if you want to ever have an unrestricted driver’s license ever again.
Anyone who has dealt with an interlock device and interlock service providers can attest that the devices and service appointments are a pain the ass. Many providers know you are stuck with them, so their customer service skills are known to be less than stellar (on a personal note, LifeSafer has provided me with pretty good customer service). In addition, it’s yet another cost on top of the court fines and fees and VASAP costs, averaging about $100 a month.
The devices themselves are also a pain to deal with. They require a specific rhythm of blowing and humming to register a test; any hesitation or deviation will come up with an abort, which makes you waste more time waiting for the device to reset. Like field breathalyzer devices, they are prone to false-positives from things like toothpaste, mouthwash, bread, fruit and other foods that can cause trace amounts of ethanol to be present in one’s mouth.
However, the results as to their effictiveness are in. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in areas in which an interlock device is required for all offenders, DUI arrests have dropped a staggering 67%. WSLS Roanoke reports in that region alone, arrests dropped 54% between 2012 and 2015, and only rose slightly in the last year because of the addition of two offers who specifically patrol for drunk drivers.
Are interlock devices perfect? Just like field devices, no.
Are there areas of improvement with the VASAP and interlock probation system? Absolutely. Communication is difficult with case officers, and there are too many opportunities to run into false-positive readings, which, at the very minimum, cause stress as one is forced to explain things to their case officer. And the devices themselves could stand to be updated.
However, based on the fact that DUI arrests are down significantly since the interlock requirement was implemented, don’t count on these things going anywhere. It looks like they are here to stay.