Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Can ignition interlocks save lives?

NOAH'S LAW AIMS TO PREVENT REPEAT DUIs

The passage of "Noah's Law" in 2016 signaled that Maryland is serious about saving lifes. Rather than simply punishing DUI, it aims to prevent drunk driving accidents by testing a driver's breath before they drive.

Noah's Law requires anyone convicted of driving under the influence to have an ignition interlock device -- similiar to a "breathalyzer" -- installed on their vehicle. The legislation was passed in honor of police officer Noah Leotta, who was killed on duty by a DUI repeat offender.

Will ignition interlock will keep our roads safe? Are Maryland's DUI laws too harsh? 

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WHAT IS NOAH'S LAW? 

In December 2015, Montgomery County officer Noah Leotta had just made a traffic stop as part of a DUI enforcement program. Noah was walking back to his cruiser when he was fatally struck by a car. The driver who hit him was not only heavily intoxicated (0.22 BAC) but had three prior arrests for drunk driving.

Noah's Law became an important part of the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016. All first-time offenders are now required to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles for six months. The device can also be required for refusing a blood alcohol test or driving while suspended for an alcohol offense. Interlock is required for one year on a second qualifying offense and three years for a third.

WHAT IS IGNITION INTERLOCK?

An ignition interlock device protects the public from accidents and injuries by physically preventing an intoxicated person from starting their car. The ignition system of the vehicle is connected to a breath analyzer. The driver must blow into the device, which immediately calculates the driver's alcohol concentration. If the concentration is higher than the device's calibrated setting, the vehicle will not start and the driver is kept off the road.

Ignition interlocks are monitored by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. In addition to stopping a person from driving drunk, any attempt to drive while under influence, or to tamper with or circumvent the interlock, is punishable as a probation or parole violation.

Even if the driver passes the ignition test, the device continues to ask for retests and random intervals throughout the drive. This ensures drivers are sober when they get behind the wheel and that they stay that way no matter how long they are on the road. This "rolling retest" also prevents a drunk driver from having a sober person start the car for them.

IGNTION INTERLOCK IS RELIABLE, BUT IT CAN'T PREVENT ALL DRUNK DRIVING

What citizens really want to know is if these devices will keep motorists and pedestrians safe from drivers who get behind the wheel when under the influence of alcohol. Each device must meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards and be monitored by the Motor Vehicle Association in Maryland for compliance. They do work, despite the occasional false positive. They do save lives, despite the occasional failure to detect alcohol. 

Yet no matter how reliable the technology and how aggressive the enforcement, there will be those who get around the law and end up on the road as a danger to everyone around them. There will be drivers who drink and drive after their mandatory ignition interlock expires. There will be those first-time offenders who do not (yet) have an interlock. 

If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident and suspect the other driver was under the influence, we encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney today. 

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