Virginia has one of the most comprehensive ignition interlock programs in the U.S. Not only is a DUI offender required to install the device for any offense, but they also have to complete the VASAP program. With such a tough take on DUI, it doesn’t make sense that drinking while driving in Virginia isn’t such a big deal.
That’s isn’t to say drinking while driving in Virginia is legal. It’s a crime with a misdemeanor penalty and $250 fine. Virginia also allows vehicle passengers to consume alcohol. However, if law enforcement sees backseat drinking, you’ll probably get pulled over and given an evaluation of your own sobriety level.
To be fair, it used to be common for adults to drink while driving. Just in the past few years, Montana made it a crime, and many refer to the practice as coming out of our country’s “Cowboy Days.” For instance, in 2010, one woman’s response to the newfangled Montana law was:
“I’m 43 years old and I’ve been drinking beer for 20 years now and having a beer on the way home is not going to make me a hazard on the road,” she said as she sipped a cold one.
Today, Mississippi still allows a driver to drink while driving, with the caveat that the driver cannot be driving dangerously or anywhere near the legal per se limit for DUI. Same with Arkansas, Connecticut and a handful of other states. It isn’t so much that the practice is legal, however, but that the states haven’t explicitly criminalized the act.
Perhaps Virginia doesn’t see the point in increasing penalties for drinking while driving, especially with the current DUI laws and ignition interlock requirement. However, ensuring the streets are safe from anyone who would drink and drive, or drink while driving, seems the best way to prove a commitment to completely sober roads.