DUI DeathsAbout a decade ago, lawmakers in Virginia decided that enough was enough and increased the severity of punishments associated with drunk driving convictions. The Virginia legislator passed more than 70 new laws at that time. What resulted was a virtual zero-tolerance policy with regard to repeat DUI offenders. Now, about 10 years later, residents of the state are wondering if it worked.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says that, yes, the stiff DUI laws are working. Since 2005, DUI fatalities in Virginia have declined by approximately 21 percent. Car wrecks caused by DUI drivers -- whether they be injury-causing or not -- have declined by about 30 percent as well. Interestingly, these results have been achieved without an actual increase in DUI convictions. Drunk driving convictions have remained approximately the same in Virginia.

Approximately 10 years ago, Virginia still had its blood alcohol limits set at 0.15. First, it moved the limit down to 0.10 and then it moved it down to 0.08, where it continues to be and where most states currently have their blood alcohol limitations. These stricter laws and stricter punishments have -- according to many -- helped to keep our nation's roads safer, prevented fatal and injury-causing accidents and helped drivers from all walks of life drink more responsibly.

Attorneys and law enforcement officials both agree that more stringent DUI legislation is the reason why death tolls are declining, not just in Virginia, but throughout the entire nation -- especially when it comes to repeat offenders. They also believe that a change in driving culture, perhaps spurred by education in combination with stricter laws, has resulted in fewer individuals driving drunk and drivers being more responsible. According to national statistics, for example, drunk driving related deaths declined by approximately 23 percent from 2005 through 2012.

While we can certainly celebrate the dramatic drop in deaths and injuries relating to nation-wide DUI accident statistics, drunk driving still remains a problem. Also, those who suffer injury caused by a drunk driver may want to investigate the possibility of pursuing personal injury claims for restitution under the law. Family members of fatal accident victims may also wish to pursue justice and financial restitution from a drunk driver responsible for their loved one's death.