Md. ignition interlock measure strengthened

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to expand ignition interlock requirements for drunk drivers in Maryland has advanced in the House of Delegates.

The House gave the bill preliminary approval on Friday.

Supporters criticized changes made by the House Judiciary Committee that did not require people who refused to take a breath test to have ignition interlock installed. But the committee added sanctions for refusing a test Thursday night.

Now, a person who refuses the test would have their license suspended for 270 days, up from 120 days, or they would have the opportunity to opt in to using ignition interlock.

The bill — called Noah’s Law after Montgomery County officer Noah Leotta — would require all drivers with blood alcohol contents of 0.08 or greater to have the devices installed. State law now requires them for those with a BAC of 0.15.

Lisa Spicknall, State Program Director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the new amendments to Noah’s Law actually bolsters the legislation.

Under the latest version of the House bill, Spicknall says “if you refuse to take the [breahthalzyer] test, your license would be suspended for 270 days or you could opt in to the ignition interlock for a one-year period.”

The idea, Spicknall says, is make it less likely that drivers end up on suspended licenses.

Highway safety advocates say suspending licenses does little to keep people from driving.

Maryland Del. Ben Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says states where ignition interlock devices are mandated for drunk drivers have seen improvements.

“Every state that has done what Noah’s Law will do has seen a reduction in fatalies of 35-65 per cent. That is a phenomenal statistic!”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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