Device allows drivers to keep their license

PARKERSBURG – Wood County sheriff’s deputies and Parkersburg police officers have been cracking down on impaired driving in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

West Virginia requires individuals convicted of driving under the influence to participate in the state’s Alcohol Test and Lock Program.

The program was started in June 2008 by former Gov. Joe Manchin and through the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles it requires offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

DUI offenders must enroll in the ATLP program within 60 days of receiving their IID installation and successfully complete the state’s safety and treatment program.

Offenders convicted of drug-related DUIs are not eligible for the program.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Office said the program is not something deputies encounter often, but it is a great idea for offenders who wish to try to curb their drinking and driving habit.

“It keeps impaired people from driving while drinking,” said Chief Deputy Shawn Graham. “It’s a pretty substantial penalty; made clear they’re getting a break.”

Once on the interlock program, when offenders’ licenses are run through the system the deputy is notified they are supposed to be driving a vehicle with the device installed, Graham said.

Although the department doesn’t run into offenders in the program a lot, it’s still a good way to allow people to keep their license after receiving a DUI, Graham said.

Gordon Cook, supervisor with the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in Charleston, said the device is paid for by the DUI offenders. Once approved for the program, people can call and set up an appointment.

There are two places in Parkersburg that offenders can go to have the device attached to their vehicle. One location that attaches the device to vehicles by appointment is LifeSafer, a garage in the 1300 block of Staunton Avenue.

LifeSafer was an originator of the ignition interlock industry in 1991 and has contributed to the advancement of interlock devices, according to its website, www.lifesafer.com.

Offenders must go through the DMV and make appointments to have the device attached in one of its garage locations.

The device requires the driver of the vehicle to submit a breath sample before starting the car. If the ignition interlock device detects an alcohol content on the person’s breath higher than a pre-set limit of .25, the vehicle will not start.

While the person operates the vehicle, the IID alerts the driver to submit a breath sample. These mandatory “rolling re-tests” are conducted at random times to measure the driver’s breath alcohol content.

The horn will activate if the offender’s BAC is above the pre-set limit at any point. The horn continues to be activated until the driver turns off the vehicle or submits a clean breath sample.

According to the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the drunken driving law set in place by Manchin follows:

* Zero Tolerance (younger than age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): Face fines from $25 to $100, and license revocation for 60 days.

* Zero Tolerance Second Offense (younger than age age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): Face 24 hours in jail, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation until your 21st birthday, and mandatory participation in the Interlock Program.

* DUI with implied consent, first offense: Face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for one year.

* DUI with alcohol or drugs, first offense: Face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for six months.

* DUI with alcohol or drugs, second offense: Face jail time from six months to one year, fines from $1,000 to $3,000 and license revocation for 10 years (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).

* DUI with alcohol or drugs, third offense: Face jail time from one to three years, fines from $3,000 to $5,000 and license revocation for life (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department recently released the number of DUI arrests made by the department. The number of arrests was 190 for 2012. The number is the highest for the department in the last five years, he said.

According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2010, West Virginia saw 87 fatalities from DUI-related vehicle accidents. Six of those were caused by drivers under the legal drinking age of 21.

Those numbers are down about 46 percent per 100,000 residents since 2002, research showed.

The FBI Uniform Crime Report found there were 4,922 arrests made statewide for drunken or impaired driving in 2010.