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23 Mar 2016

Push for tougher rules on drunk driving with Noah’s Law

As the House of Delegates prepares to vote on a measure that would place ignition interlocks in the cars of all convicted drunken drivers in Maryland, advocates for the measure on Thursday called on legislators not to weaken the bill.

Named Noah’s Law after a Montgomery County police officer who was struck and killed by a drunken driver in December, the legislation passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary committee last week.

It would expand the required use of ignition interlocks — devices that prevent a car from starting if its driver registers a blood alcohol content higher than the legal limit of .08 — to all people who are convicted of driving under the influence. Current law requires only repeat offenders and “super drunks,” those who register .15 or higher on a Breathalyzer test, to use the devices.

But the committee added several pages of amendments that supporters say dilute the bill’s impact. One of the biggest changes would allow suspected drunken drivers to opt out of the ignition interlock requirement by refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. Instead, their license would be suspended. Amendments also reduce the period that first-time offenders have to use the ignition interlock and put travel restrictions on people whose cars have the device.

“The amendments passed clearly weaken the law,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery County, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. He and Del. Ben Kramer, D-Montgomery County, the House sponsor, have backed similar bills since 2009.

The issue is personal for Raskin, whose cousin was killed in a crash in Florida. He plans to push for a stricter bill in the Senate, which heard testimony on Noah’s Law Thursday afternoon.

“We need to go all the way this year,” Raskin said. “This would not be Annapolis without drama, but we are going to pass a tough, comprehensive bill.”

Noah’s Law has the support of Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Mike Miller.

“Expending mandatory ignition interlocks to drunken driving offenders in Maryland sends a strong message that we cannot and will not allow impaired drivers on the road to put the lives of other motorists at risk,” Hogan wrote in a March 9 letter in favor of the bill.

As the House of Delegates prepares to vote on a measure that would place ignition interlocks in the cars of all convicted drunken drivers in Maryland, advocates for the measure on Thursday called on legislators not to weaken the bill.

Named Noah’s Law after a Montgomery County police officer who was struck and killed by a drunken driver in December, the legislation passed unanimously out of the House Judiciary committee last week.

Read the rest here: http://bit.ly/1SigAFZ

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