Maryland set to expand ignition interlock program for drunk drivers

A measure that will expand the use of ignition interlock devices when drivers are convicted of driving drunk is among many laws getting the signature of Maryland Gov. Wes Moore in Annapolis.

The bill does away with an exemption that allowed drivers to plead down to probation before judgment in drunk driving cases. Safety advocates said that exemption allowed drivers to avoid having the alcohol-detecting devices installed their vehicles.

Rich Leotta, the father of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta who was killed by a drunk driver in 2015, told lawmakers during the General Assembly session last Thursday that closing the loophole in Maryland’s drunk driving law was “all about saving lives, nothing more nothing less.”

He told a legislative committee, “I’ve been here year after year and I shouldn’t have to. … You know what’s right!”

Leotta was among those who successfully lobbied lawmakers to pass “Noah’s Law” in 2016, which required the use of ignition interlocks when drivers were found guilty of driving under the influence.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk driving deaths in Maryland increased 24% between 2019 and 2022.

Chrissy Nizer, administrator of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration, also testified in favor of the bill, explaining that over the last five years, more than 840 fatal crashes in the state involved drugs or alcohol. That’s about a third of the accidents.

Nizer said that last year, interlock ignition devices detected nearly 3,000 attempts to start a vehicle when a driver was impaired. She told lawmakers during the General Assembly session, “The ignition interlock device does prevent impaired driving crashes from occurring and help change that behavior, which is really what this is all about.”

The new law takes effect Oct. 1 and is one of dozens of measures being signed into law by Gov. Moore during his fourth and final bill signing ceremony in Annapolis on Thursday.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up