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Are Virginia's DUI laws decreasing drunk driving accidents?

Virginia is often known as one of the toughest states on drunk drivers. If one causes a drunk driving accident in the state, he or she may face more than a night in jail, even for a first offense. However, it's interesting to learn that Virginia's well-known toughness on DUI offenders was not always the case. Roughly a decade ago, a bipartisan set of lawmakers drafted over 70 pieces of legislation aimed at cracking down on drunk drivers.

Fortunately, the approach of getting tough with drunk drivers seems to have had a positive effect. Since 2005, deaths caused by DUI accidents have gone down by an impressive 21 percent. In addition, according to statistics from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, DUI-related wrecks have gone down by about 30 percent. Even better, this apparent drop in DUI-related fatalities and accidents is reflected on the national level. From 2005 to 2012, DUI fatalities went down by about 23 percent nationwide.

According to a Virginia Beach Sheriff, who served as a state senator just as Virginia was cracking down on DUIs, the stricter laws have indeed made a difference. High-profile accidents helped spur the state's invigorated approach to drunk driving prevention and punishment. One of those cases occurred in 2003 when a 16-year-old was fatally injured when a drunk driver ran a red light and then fled. The driver had been behind the wheel with multiple DUI charges in his past.

The fact that Virginia is no-nonsense when it comes to drunk driving should be encouraging news to anyone who has found themselves in the position of accident victim. There are criminal penalties for drunk driving, of course, but also civil penalties if a Virginian chooses to proceed with a personal injury or wrongful death suit. Recovering damages through one of these lawsuits can not only make that individual whole again in crucial ways, but can also hold drunk drivers accountable.

Source: Police One, "Tough Va. DUI laws lead to drop in crashes, deaths," Louis Hansen, July 15, 2014

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