CARS.COM — As of this week, the scales of justice have been tipped in favor of drunken-driving prevention. With the passage of Noah’s Law late Monday night, Maryland became the 26th state to require the installation of an ignition interlock device on all first-time DUI offenders’ vehicles.
That leaves less than half of the states to go in Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s decadelong push to get all 50 to pass similar laws. Ignition interlock legislation is pending in California, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. According to MADD, the results speak for themselves.
“States with all-offender ignition interlock laws, such as Arizona and West Virginia, have seen reductions in drunk driving deaths of 50 and 40 percent,” MADD said in a statement. “Across the nation, ignition interlocks have stopped 1.77 million drunk driving attempts.”
Ignition interlocks prevent cars from being started unless drivers can prove via a built-in breathalyzer that no alcohol is in their system. The devices are installed on the vehicles of offenders who have been convicted at least once of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more. MADD says ignition interlocks are vital because a third of all drunken drivers arrested or convicted are repeat offenders, while the average drunken driver has committed the offense 80 times before a first arrest.
Maryland’s ignition interlock legislation was dubbed Noah’s Law in honor of Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed by a suspected drunken driver in December. MADD noted that Gov. Larry Hogan already had taken administrative action earlier this year to expand the use of ignition interlocks as an option in sentencing all first-time DUI offenders stopped with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. Previously, only first-time offenders with at least a 0.15 BAC — nearly twice the legal limit — were mandated to use an interlock device.
Maryland’s law requires judges to order ignition interlocks for first-time offenders for at least six months. It also more than doubles to nine months the interlock or license-suspension period for DUI suspects who refuse to submit to a BAC test, and establishes a “compliance-based removal” period of three months.