A Unanimous Vote for Ignition Interlocks in Maryland – A Good Sign.
Passing a bill and making it law – even a worthy bill with lots of popular support – can be a long and messy process. The text gets shuffled through various committees in two houses, and every stop brings changes and sometimes compromises. So it is with ignition interlocks in Maryland, which are currently subject to weak laws. Yet things are looking up.
Named for Noah Leotta, a Maryland Police officer killed by a repeat drunken driver while on duty, Noah’s Law would require that all DUI offenders have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicles. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Currently only repeat offenders, or those who are extremely drunk, are required to use the device.
Thursday Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 0735 – Noah’s Law – unanimously. Part of the reason for the unanimity is surely public outrage at the death of Noah Leotta. The bill has been introduced quite a few times before, but never made it to the Governor’s desk. Sad to say, it probably took the needless death of a fine young police officer to light a fire under legislators and make it happen.
Law enforcement agencies, road safety advocates, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are in support of Noah’s law. The police chief of the county in which Officer Leotta was killed, Montgomery County, has openly decried what he describes as Maryland’s weak penalties for drunk driving.
Later this week the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee will get a crack at the companion bill, SB0302. If they pass it, there’s a chance the bill could make it to Governor Hogan’s desk, and Maryland might become state number 26 to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law.