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