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Monday, March 15, 2010

Maryland Automobile Ignition Interlocks

The state of Maryland is making big steps to bring automobile ignition interlocks into effect. Three bills are being considered in Maryland that would require that first time DUI offenders as well as those charged with drunken driving who receive probation before judgment use ignition interlocks. Ignition interlocks are devices that attach to the ignition of a vehicle, before the car will start the driver must blow into a tube that reads their blood alcohol level; even if theirs is even a .01 BAC the vehicle will not start. The driver will be alerted when driving around to pull over and breathe into the tube periodically, in an attempt to keep drivers from drinking after they start their vehicle.

Interlocks have been used in California for quite a few years and they have been relatively effective in deterring drunk driving. As July 1, 2009 the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) required that any driver convicted of driving with a suspended license due to a prior alcohol-related suspension to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle (owned or operated) by the offender for one to three years. It would seem that this law would keep anyone from driving drunk, but, sadly there are still thousands of DUI offenders every year in California.

Maryland's House of Delegates three proposed bills provided by the Washington Post:

  • HB 515, sponsored by Del. Tanya Thornton Shewell(R-Carroll), would require use for one year without exception.
  • HB 630, sponsored by Del. Luiz Simmons (D-Montgomery), would require use up to three years, although a judge is permitted to rule otherwise after considering whether the violation involved personal injury or property damage; whether the driver willingly submitted to an alcohol test; whether an interlock would be a hardship on the driver or the driver's family; whether the driver has received treatment for alcohol abuse; whether the driver poses a danger; whether the driver is likely to drive drunk again; and whether there are "any other factors bearing on the interests of the defendant or the public."
  • HB 743, sponsored by Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), requires use for at least six months without exception.

It appears that all three bills will have a strong effect on the drunk drivers in Maryland, but it is hard to say which would be the most effective. What are your thoughts on ignition interlocks?

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