Maryland ponders ignition interlocks for first-time offenders

Maryland ponders ignition interlocks for first-time offenders

As many as 900 people throughout the nation may lose their lives to drunk
drivers during the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, according
to transportation experts. To reverse that alarming trend, a growing number
of transportation advocates are pressuring Maryland state officials to
crack down on punishment for
DWI. In neighboring Virginia, for example, ignition interlock devices are
required for first-time offenders; Maryland does not require the installation
of these devices until later offenses.

Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent drunk drivers from getting
behind the wheel of their vehicles by testing their BAC level. These small
breathalyzer tests measure the amount of alcohol in the drivers’
blood, preventing them from turning their vehicle on if they are found
to be intoxicated. The interlock devices also safely and randomly issue
demands for tests while the vehicle is in operation. Neither Maryland
nor the District of Columbia require the installation of an ignition interlock
for first-time offenders.

So far, Maryland state officials are loath to pass a bill to require ignition
interlock devices for early offenders. Efforts to pass such legislation
have consistently failed throughout the state legislature. Supporters,
however, say they intend to introduce new legislation in 2014 to push
for the use of the interlock devices, despite the cost and inconvenience.
Evidence does suggest that convicted drunk drivers who use the ignition
interlock devices may be less likely to drive drunk again; an estimated
75 percent of those drivers thought twice before getting behind the wheel
of a car while intoxicated.

By requiring ignition interlock devices, Maryland legislators will be putting
an additional burden on first-time drunk driving offenders. This was not
only be a financial but also a social cost, which should carefully be
weighed against the need to prevent car accidents because of DUI. Those
facing multiple DUI offenses and drunk driving charges may benefit from
the assistance of a qualified criminal attorney, who can help them learn
more about the impact of ignition interlock devices on their specific cases.

Source: WTOP 103.5FM, “Advocates want to change Md., D.C. drunk driving law” Kate Ryan, Dec. 18, 2013