‘Throwing the book’: Md. ups punishments for drunk and drugged drivers

Starting Tuesday, drivers will face significantly tougher penalties and harsher jail time for killing someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Maryland.

The “Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act” (House Bill 707) that takes effect Oct. 1 increases the maximum jail time for those convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence from three to five years. It also doubles prison time from five to 10 years for drivers with prior convictions.

“The state of Maryland is throwing the book at drunk and impaired drivers who kill or maim others and the same is true for watercraft operators who kill or maim others,” AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs John Townsend said.

“Maryland joins the growing list of states continuing to crack down on DUI offenders with prior convictions,” he said. “Research shows that a person with a prior conviction has 4.1 times the risk of being involved in a fatal automobile crash.”

Townsend says that one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the U.S. and the D.C. area involve drunk drivers.

“This is a very serious penalty for a very serious crime,” he said. “Tough enforcement of drunk driving laws has been a major factor in reducing drunk driving deaths since the 1980s.”

Included in the law are heavier punishments for impaired drivers convicted of traveling with someone under 18 in the car: one year in jail for the first offense, two years for the second.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 30 people die every day from drunk-driving crashes.

In Maryland, the threshold for a Driving Under the Influence or DUI offense is driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. A Driving While Impaired charge or DWI involves a blood alchol level of 0.04 to 0.08.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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