Maryland's Drunk Driver Ignition Interlock Program Requires More Participation - Southern Maryland Headline News

Maryland's Drunk Driver Ignition Interlock Program Requires More Participation

GLEN BURNIE, Md. (November 2, 2011)—Maryland officials recently announced that the 2011 Drunk Driving Reduction Act, implemented on October 1, will expand Maryland's ignition interlock program by requiring more drivers to participate. Currently, Maryland has the highest per-capita participation in ignition interlock on the East Coast with numbers that have nearly doubled in the past few years.

Over the last 3 years, Maryland's ignition interlock program has increased 66%. In November 2008, there were 5,500 participants in the program. One year later, there were 7,971 participants. Currently, Maryland estimates that there are almost 9,100 participants in the MVA's ignition interlock program, and it is expected to grow even larger. This increase in participation was promoted by the education of judges and law enforcement about the effectiveness of the device and now will be enhanced even further under the new legislation passed by the State Legislature.

"Our commitment to impaired driving prevention and our efforts to increase awareness of the consequences of impaired driving are stronger than ever. If you drink and drive, you will get caught and the odds have increased dramatically that you will be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle," said Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator John Kuo at a media event today at the Maryland State Police Barrack in Jessup.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Marcus L. Brown and National Highway Traffic Safety Regional Administrator Dr. Beth Baker also participated in the media event which highlighted the changes in Maryland's drunk driving laws and demonstrated an ignition interlock devise.

"Unfortunately, Maryland police officers deal almost daily with the tragedies caused by a drunk driver," Colonel Brown said. "One of the most frustrating experiences for police officers is to arrest a drunk driver for repeating the same offense. This new law will reduce the opportunity to re-offend, while helping us decrease injuries and deaths and increase safety on Maryland roads."

"We need to use all weapons in our arsenal in our fight to prevent drunk driving. We have the technology on our side, we just need to use it - as much and as often as possible," said Dr. Baker. Research shows that ignition interlocks, while installed on an offender's vehicle, reduce recidivism among both first-time and repeat DWI offenders."

Officials also announced that Maryland is the first state in the nation to automate its comprehensive ignition interlock program, managing the program through the aggressive use of technology. Currently, five vendors in the State of Maryland have been approved by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to operate interlock programs. Drivers who participate must report to the interlock vendor every 30 days to have their devices calibrated and to have their monitoring data electronically downloaded and sent to the MVA. Program violations are automatically flagged from the data that is sent by the ignition interlock providers.

Representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the American Automobile Association also attended the media event in support of the message. The 2011 Drunk Driving Reduction Act allows many more drivers, who have been found to drive while intoxicated, to drive if they install an ignition interlock devise. The new law also sanctions drivers who do not complete their ignition interlock period or drive without the ignition interlock device that has been installed in their vehicle.

The law makes it possible for drunk driving violators to enroll in an ignition interlock program even if they initially chose suspension. The program is required for six months for a first ignition interlock restriction, one year for a second ignition interlock restriction, and three years for a third or subsequent ignition interlock restriction.

"Over the past few years, AAA Mid-Atlantic has advocated in Annapolis for mandatory ignition interlocks for drunk driving offenders. While ignition interlocks are no panacea, they are certainly an integral part in the solution to address impaired driving, by keeping drunk drivers off the roads and subsequently saving lives in Maryland. We commend the legislature and the MVA for the expansion of this important tool to fight drunk driving in our State," said Ragina C. Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Drivers who are now required to enroll in the ignition interlock program or face suspension or revocation under the 2011 Drunk Driving Reduction Act include:

-- Drivers who are under 21 and violate their alcohol restrictions,

-- Drivers who have a second alcohol conviction of any kind within 5 years,

-- Or drivers who register a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater and are subsequently convicted of driving under the influence.

Drivers who have high blood alcohol convictions are required not only to participate in the ignition interlock program, they must successfully complete it. Others who violate the ignition interlock program face a fine of $1,000 and /or 1 year in prison for a first offense and a fine of $1,000 and /or 2 years in prison for a second offense.

It has been observed that drivers who drink and drive will do so on suspended licenses. The Maryland Ignition Interlock Program is designed to eliminate the drunk driver from the road. Studies have found that up to 65 percent of people with suspended licenses still drive. It is believed that ignition interlock devices will help ensure that all offenders will not drink and drive again.

Maryland has long recognized that an ignition interlock program is a valuable deterrent that saves lives and first enacted an ignition interlock program in 1989.

Source: Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration & Maryland State Police

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