Md. lawmaker proposes changes for some drunk driving convictions

Kate Ryan,

WASHINGTON – The drunken driver who poses the biggest threat to your child’s safety may not be a stranger.

“Half of all minors killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes in Maryland specifically were occupants of a vehicle driven by a drunk driver,” said Kurt Erikson with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Caroline Cash, executive director of Maryland Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said most of the calls her office gets come from people concerned about what might happen the next time their relative gets behind the wheel with children in the car.

Callers worry their kids could be at risk because the driver in question either has a drinking problem or has a history of driving while impaired.

Everyone asks the same question: “What can I do?”

“Call the police,” Cash said. “You’ll have to catch them in the act.”

Maryland Delegate Sam Arora has a solution. He is sponsoring a bill that would require anyone convicted of drunken driving with children present in the car participate in the ignition interlock program. After the first conviction, their car would be outfitted with an device to electronically measure the driver’s sobriety.

“Driving a child while intoxicated is an enormous breach of responsibility,” Arora said.

“There is no better way to protect children than ensuring that these adults are sober before they drive.”

The provisions in the Maryland bill are needed, Arora says, because the incidents of drunken driving with child passengers is on the rise. Citations are up 10 percent in just two years, according to figures from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

“There was a Maryland woman who was arrested twice in three hours for that last year,” Arora said.

In Maryland, it already is a crime to drive drunk with children. Under Arora’s bill, interlocks would be installed only in cases where a driver is found to blow twice the legal blood alcohol limit.

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill in Annapolis earlier this week.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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