Will Maryland Be the 25th State to Require Ignition Interlocks for All DUI Offenders?

Map of states that require ignition interlocks for first DUI offenders - LifeSafer
(Click to enlarge)

It started in New Mexico. In 2005, that state decided it had had enough of drunk driving, which had become a serious problem. A law was passed requiring all DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicles. That included first offenders, provided the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Arizona and Louisiana followed two years later, and Oregon and West Virginia the year after that. Things began to snowball because of an important finding: states that required ignition interlocks for first DUI offenders saw a remarkable reduction in DUI arrests, crashes and deaths. By 2014, 24 states had passed first-offender interlock laws. Some states saw reductions in alcohol-related road deaths of 30 to 40 percent.

Will Maryland be next? It’s looking that way.

Senate Bill 395 is on the table in the Maryland General Assembly. The bill, if passed, will bring the total of states that require ignition interlocks for first DUI offenses to 25, meaning half the country will have been swept by the trend toward tougher interlock laws.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a strong supporter of first-offender bills. They have voiced support for Senate Bill 395.

Why first offenders? Don’t they deserve more of a break?

The sad fact is, by the time a person is arrested for a DUI, he or she has driven drunk about 80 times. Ignition interlocks are the only method which assures the public that an offender will not get behind the wheel of a given vehicle while impaired. Fines, jail time and counseling are also employed, and experts will debate how much to emphasize these elements. But interlocks are the measure which protects the public here and now.

Fingers crossed that Maryland Senate bill 395 passes, and the state gets the road safety laws it deserves.