Expanded Maryland Breathalyzer Law Aims to Reduce Drunk Driving Deaths

Last year, Maryland became one of 28 states requiring anyone cited for driving under the influence to use an ignition interlock device—not just repeat offenders. Drivers must install the devices inside their vehicles in the dashboard area. They then blow into the device, which reads their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and determines whether they can start their motor vehicles.

Critics who opposed the expanded Maryland law say these breathalyzer devices unfairly penalize first offenders who don’t have a history of drunk driving. However, a study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reports that far more lives are saved when everyone convicted of drunk driving offenses uses the interlock devices.

The Maryland law requires people cited for a number of offenses to use the ignition interlock device. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), these offenses include…

• Driving under the influence (DUI)
• Driving while impaired (DWI) while transporting a minor under the age of 16
• Driving while intoxicated with an initial breathalyzer test refusal
• Homicide or life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while DUI or DWI

The law was passed on October 1, 2016, as part of Noah’s Law, in memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta. The officer was struck and killed by a DUI driver as he conducted anti-drunk driving law enforcement over the holiday season.

Maryland’s ignition interlock program has been around since 1989. At that time, only repeat drunk driving offenders were required to use the breathalyzer devices. Noah’s Law has enforced stricter regulations on Maryland drivers, affecting anyone stopped in Maryland and cited for a DWI/DUI offense (including those holding out-of-state drivers licenses).

The Johns Hopkins research study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found at least a 7 percent drop in fatalities when interlocks were mandatory for everyone convicted of driving with blood-alcohol concentration over the legal limit. This is in comparison to an approximate 2 percent drop in fatalities when the devices were limited to repeat offenders or those with high alcohol levels.

In Maryland, drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or higher are considered alcohol-impaired by law. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,716 people were killed in Maryland drunk driving crashes between 2003 and 2012.

Related Baltimore Injury Attorney Article:

Maryland Passes Noah’s Law to Clamp Down on Repeat DUI Offenders (July 2016)

Sources:

Breathalyzer technology saves more lives when all offenders use it, study says
The Baltimore Sun Jan. 5, 2017

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration — Ignition Interlock Program

Driving Laws Presented by NOLO — Ignition Interlock 101

CDC.gov: Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Maryland