Drunk driving ignition lock bill advances in Md.

WASHINGTON — More convicted drunk drivers in Maryland may soon have to blow into a tube before they try to start their cars.

Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee Thursday night unanimously approved “Noah’s Law,” named for Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a repeat drunken driver while conducting a traffic stop as part of a drunken-driving task force in December 2015. The bill now goes to the full House.

“It’s a great breakthrough,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County, whose companion bill will be heard next Thursday by the Senate’s Judiciary Proceedings Committee. “I’m hoping we do exactly what the House Judiciary Committee did.”

Under the new bill, motorists convicted of driving at or above the state’s legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent would be required to install the ignition lock device, which requires a driver to blow into a tube before trying to start their vehicle.

Currently, drivers convicted of driving with a much higher BAC — 0.15 — have been required to use the lock, as well as drunk drivers who were transporting children and underage DUI offenders.

Raskin has introduced similar bills for the past seven years, but all have failed.  He and other proponents of stronger ignition lock laws have blamed Maryland’s alcohol lobby.

“I think it’s been completely irresponsible,” said Raskin. “I would hope the big liquor interests would stand down, or come out for this legislation.”

Half the 50 states require ignition locks for all people convicted of drunken driving, including Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware.

Raskin believes the ignition lock is “a perfectly crafted instrument” to ensure public safety while not being overly harsh to those convicted of drunken driving.

“They can drive the kids to school; they can drive to work; they can take a trip on the weekend — they just can’t do it drunk,” he said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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