Drinking and driving has been a serious problem in Virginia since the 1940s. The history of what has come to be known as VASAP is thought to begin with the development of the four alcohol countermeasure activities of the MANN Commission, formed in 1966, which recommended that Virginia respond to the Federal Highway Safety Act of 1966. Through federal funding, a state Highway Safety Division was formed, later to become the Department of Transportation Safety.
In 1972, a pilot program in Fairfax County was established, being one of 35 national programs funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In 1975, the State Department of Transportation Safety submitted legislation to the Virginia General Assembly to expand the program statewide. This legislation enabled the local VASAP programs to become self-supporting through the collection of a client fee authorized by the General Assembly.
Today there are 24 local programs, operating in accordance with the five (5) component target areas.
These five components include more specific objectives to achieve the program goal of improving highway safety. They are:
VASAP enhances law enforcement efforts to reduce alcohol and drug-related crashes. VASAP helps law enforcement agencies in the area of traffic enforcement, acquiring state of the art equipment, and providing training to law enforcement to detect and apprehend DUI offenders.
VASAP, the prosecutors and the courts cooperate to ensure the efficient processing of those convicted of DUI and referred to VASAP for probation. VASAP also works with the courts to develop appropriate probation revocation procedures in the event the offender does not follow probation requirements.
3) Case Management & Offender Intervention
Each offender's case is handled by a case manager who classifies the offender to determine the appropriate education and/or treatment services needed. The case manager supervises each case to ensure that probation requirements are fulfilled.
4) Public Information
VASAP works hard to inform the public about the dangers and costs of drinking and driving. It undertakes extensive prevention activities yearly.
5) Evaluation and Certification
VASAP is responsible for periodically evaluating local ASAPs to ensure they are servicing communities in an effective, efficient manner.
Since 86% of all crimes can be somehow related to alcohol or other drugs, the Commonwealth has continually increased its support for preventing offenses such as drinking and driving. The 24 local ASAPs have been given the responsibility of doing everything they can to lower the number of drunk drivers on our streets. These efforts have been paying off. Virginia's ASAP programs have saved many lives.
The services given by the local Virginia ASAPs have a positive "ripple effect" on other services in the Commonwealth. Many studies on a national basis have found that the ASAP program is extremely cost effective as well as extremely successful. Not only are the local ASAPs cost efficient, they are cost controlled as well. ASAPs receive their money entirely from user fees and grants. ASAPs get their money from drunk drivers, not taxpayers.
In 1986, the General Assembly established a Commission on VASAP to formulate and maintain standards to be observed by local ASAPs and to allocate funds to programs with budget deficits.
The Commission is composed of 15 members who offer a broad range of knowledge and experience to effectively administer the ASAP system as provided in Section 18.2-271.2 Code of Virginia Commission on VASAP.
The Commission on VASAP, through the Executive Director, is responsible for the administration of the state system and overseeing the operations of local Alcohol Safety Action Programs and for assuring local program adherence to promulgated policies and procedures through certification of local programs.
What Happens to the Offender?
The offender is placed on probation by the court and given a restricted license and ordered to report to the local ASAP office within 15 days. Offenders who fail to meet the requirements of ASAP probation will be returned to court as noncompliant. The court may subject the offender to revocation action to include imposition of previously suspended fines and jail sentences.
The ASAP system prides itself on being a totally offender funded system. In short, it operates without the assistance of state tax dollars. Each probationer is required to pay a minimum participation fee.
The Commission on VASAP provides the opportunity for local ASAPs to develop initiatives to be funded by grants. Grants are available following successful application by the three geographic ASAP regions. These regional grants may be used for initiatives ranging from training to public information to data processing.
To supplement its activities, the Commission applies for and receives federal highway safety grant monies for statewide use in the areas of public information, case management, law enforcement training and training for the staff of the local programs.
In addition to education/treatment programs offered under the ASAP initiative, other services are made available through ancillary programs. Some are mandated and offered statewide while others are created based on the individual needs of the areas served by the local programs.
ASAP has developed methods to improve highway safety programs and to provide for an efficient and credible Alcohol Safety Action Program responsive to the needs of each locality in Virginia. In addition, VASAP trains law enforcement, provides training for the judiciary, provides training for defense and Commonwealth's Attorneys, and provides educational services to public schools, colleges and universities. ASAP is an integral part of a "systems approach" in combating the alcohol and drug-related public safety problem in Virginia.