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Tougher DUI Laws in D.C., Virginia, not Justified by the Facts

by | Oct 29, 2012

Virginia traffic deaths and severe injuries have seen a marked and steady decline since the record highs of 2007, despite the push for legislative actions to stiffen DUI laws throughout the state and surrounding areas.

D.C. DUI lawyers understand that, according to the Virginia Pilot, there were reportedly 1,000 traffic deaths across the state in 2007. That was the highest it had been in 20 years. However, in the five years since, those numbers have failed to surpass 800.

Advocates say the decline is directly attributable to increased DUI penalties, tighter license restrictions for younger drivers and pumped up police patrols. Officials are using this to convince those involved in Virginia’s Highway Safety Plan that such measures need to be not only extended but expanded. This could have serious implications for those arrested for DUI in Virginia. State officials first adopted this plan in 2006 at the behest of federal officials. The plan had recently been updated based on input from stakeholders at both the local and federal level and an in-depth review of traffic data.

Part of that data included the fact that the number of severe injuries also dropped significantly between 2001 and 2010. The truth of the matter is drunk driving accidents have been in decline for years and do not justify increased enforcement measures at this time.

Some had argued that rising gas prices were at issue, causing people to drive fewer miles overall. However, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that the total number of miles driven by state residents has remained the same over the last decade.

But could tougher DUI laws really be the cause?

It doesn’t seem to be the case, considering that the findings were not consistent throughout the state. For example, in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Suffolk and Portsmouth, the number of traffic deaths has remained virtually unchanged since 2000, averaging about 80 each year.

Another issue that was raised as a point in the Safety Plan were the efforts by law enforcement officials to clear scenes faster. According to VDOT, it generally took an average of 45 minutes to clear a crash in 2011. There were more than 5,660 crashes total. The year before, it took about 47 minutes to clear a crash. There were 5,800 that year.

Officials are pointing to this as a sign of progress. However, consider that traffic investigators must piece together what happened in that short amount of time. That is evidence that can later be used against you. Shortening that amount of time may be of some relief to other motorists, but it leaves a fair amount of room for mistakes that could later be used to bring criminal charges against one of the drivers.

That’s why an experienced DUI lawyer is critical.

The vast majority of accidents occurred on the highway. Although officials are using the most recent data as a means to push for tighter measures, consider too that Virginia’s rate of traffic deaths is already far lower than the national rate. Given this, legislators would do well to consider whether their time may be better spent focusing on other matters.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights or fill out our online contact form. Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards accepted. Call 202-765-3175.