Noah’s Law Gets Support From MADD’s Co-founder

Noah's lawWhen Maryland Officer Noah Leotta was struck and killed during a traffic stop with a drunk driver last year, the shock of his death extended far beyond his family, friends, and coworkers. That’s why when his family and coworkers began the process of passing Noah’s Law, a law strengthening ignition interlock requirements in Maryland, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and lawmakers jumped on board with a tidal wave of support.

MADD dedicated the recently released report ‘How technology has stopped 1.77 million drunk drivers’ to Officer Leotta and Governor Larry Hogan wrote to Officer Leotta’s parents in support of the law. Right before the House voted, Cindi Lamb Wiley, one of the co-founders of MADD, came to testify in support of the law too.

Thankfully all of their hard work paid off, because Noah’s Law took a huge step forward when it passed the House of Delegates with a vote of 136-0. It’s now on its way to the Senate.

If Noah’s Law passes the Senate and becomes law, it will change the way offenders are required to use ignition interlocks in Maryland. As of right now, if you are convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) and you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15, you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock in your vehicle. Noah’s Law will strengthen ignition interlock laws by requiring anyone with a BAC of .08 or higher to install the device.

Noah’s Law will also require the following:

  • Ignition interlocks for anyone who refuses to take a breath test
  • Increased penalties for anyone refusing to take a breath test
  • Increased license suspensions for drunk drivers with a higher blood alcohol content
  • Will allow voluntary enrollment in the ignition interlock program for one year instead of a driver’s license suspension

Will ignition interlock requirements in Maryland finally be strong enough to shut down drunk drivers? If Noah’s Law passes in the Senate, the state has a good chance of seeing a real decrease in alcohol-related deaths.

Victims of Drinking And Driving In Maryland May Be Able To Sue

drinking and driving in MarylandIt’s hard enough to lose a loved one suddenly, but when you lose someone to a drunk driving crash there’s no way to describe the feeling. Between the anger over the circumstances and the wish to turn back time to make things right again, there’s a overwhelming sense of injustice that you can make a victim want to pick up the phone and contact a lawyer. Unfortunately in a lot of states, it’s been difficult if not impossible to sue a drunk driver for damages.

A recent senate vote in Maryland may change that for some victims of drinking and driving in Maryland.  They voted 43-1 in favor of a measure to let families of deceased victims of crashes sue super drunk or extremely intoxicated drivers for punitive damages.

Super drunk or extremely intoxicated offenders are people who crashed with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15, and the new measure states that a victim can sue these offenders if the offender is a person who has already been convicted of driving under the influence when they killed another person in a subsequent crash while extremely intoxicated.

If that sounds like a pretty specific sub-group of people that can be sued, think of it this way: there are a lot of repeat offenders on the road in Maryland, and all this bill requires is that the person have a drinking and driving conviction on his or her record and be over .15 BAC when they cause a crash that kills someone. Because it’s highly likely that every time someone drinks and drives, especially with that blood alcohol concentration, they could cause a crash, this could end up being a large group of people who are suddenly available to be sued.

The only problem for victims of drinking and driving in Maryland is that a bill like this has already gone on to the House of Delegates and it died in committee last year. Will it pass this time? If it does it will be a huge leap forward in holding drinking drivers accountable, and it might even stop a repeat offender from making the choice to drink and drive again.

It’s Time For New Drunk Driving Laws In Maryland

drunk driving laws in marylandPulling over and arresting drunk drivers is part of the job for police officers in the United States, but when you’re a police officer in Maryland, it’s starting to look as though you’re a bit more at risk for being involved in a drunk driving crash too. It’s shocking but true: 16 police cruisers were struck by drunk drivers last year in Montgomery County, Maryland, and after one police officer died recently the state is pushing for new drunk driving laws in Maryland.

This past December 3rd, Officer Noah Leotta was standing next to his police cruiser after he pulled over a suspected drunk driver. He had been working at a driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoint, and was beside the car of one driver when another vehicle drove up and smashed right into him. He died 7 days later.

The driver of the other vehicle had been drinking and smoked marijuana before he crashed into the officer, and he told police at the scene that he couldn’t stand straight because he had been drinking too much. He had been arrested three times before he crashed into Officer Leotta.

Offenders like the one that killed Officer Leotta have made police stand up and say that drunk driving laws in Maryland are far too slack. Officer Leotta’s death was the 36th crash-related fatality in Maryland in 2015, and 1/3 of those crashes were alcohol-related. Police feel part of the problem is that repeat drunk drivers are heading back to the roads to drive again too quickly thanks to DUI laws that don’t require ignition interlocks for all offenders.

They’d like to reduce alcohol-related fatalities with a proposed law that’s been dubbed Noah’s Law, requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers including first time offenders. If they are successful in their push to strengthen DUI laws in Maryland, the state will join 23 other states that have all offender laws on the books.

Although other states have been successful in reducing fatalities thanks to all offender ignition interlocks, other groups in Maryland have been trying to bring such a law in for the past 8 years without success. Maybe this crash will be the final straw for Maryland, and they’ll take drunk drivers off the road with Noah’s law.

Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program May Be Expanding

changes-maryland-ignition-interlockChanges: they might be coming to Maryland’s ignition interlock program. Governor Larry Hogan is attempting to change the way drunk drivers are punished in the hopes that the number of alcohol-related injuries and fatalities drop, and he’s taking big steps to do so.

Maryland has had an ignition interlock program since 1989. Right now, anyone who blows a .15 or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a breathalyzer can opt in and install device in any vehicle he or she drives without an administrative Motor Vehicle Association (MVA) hearing.

If you are a first offender who blows between a .08 to .14, you can’t automatically opt into the program. Ignition interlock device installation will be determined by a judge and are only required after a second offense.

For the most part, first offenders in the .08 to .14 BAC range receive a restricted drivers license for 45 days. That means they can drive only in situations that are necessary like to work or school. What Governor Hogan is proposing is that these offenders be allowed to opt in to the ignition interlock program, allowing them to install an ignition interlock device without a MVA hearing, and he believes that will reduce the amount of drunk driving crashes in Maryland.

Maryland sees approximately 7,900 drunk driving crashes on a yearly basis, and an estimated 170 people die due to someone’s choice to drive drunk. Although Governor Hogan believes the expanded ignition interlock program will result in fewer DUI-related fatalities, people who oppose the plan think it could overwhelm the MVA system in Maryland.

There are currently 11,000 offenders who use ignition interlock devices in Maryland. If Governor Hogan’s plan passes, there could be up to 40,000 more who join in, and that will mean safer roads for everyone who drives on them.

 

 

Michael Phelps, one year after his second DUI arrest

michael-phelps-one-year-after-dui

Image from abc.go.com

When you’ve got 22 Olympic medals on your wall, it’s hard not to feel a sense of accomplishment. But for Michael Phelps, one of his biggest achievements has been the 1-year anniversary of the night he was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) for the second time.

He was arrested in Maryland last year for driving 84 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. At the time, his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was double the legal limit and he failed several field sobriety tests. The aftermath for Phelps was intense: he was suspended from the US Swim Team for 6 months and was required to go to drug and alcohol rehabilitation, spend 18 months on probation, and abstain from drinking alcohol.

This week he posted on Instagram to mark the anniversary of his arrest, and his words have received over 22,000 likes and comments.

This day a year ago I found myself in a dark hole. At this point in my life today I can’t be happier !!! My life today with my fiancée and my career is better than I could ever imagined. Going through the thing I have gone through in the last year have changed my outlook on life.

Phelps is fortunate he had the opportunity to receive probation instead of jail time and that he had the opportunity turn his life around. Not only could he have crashed and killed himself or someone else, but Maryland DUI laws include fines up to $2,000 for a second offense, a one year drivers license suspension, and a mandatory ignition interlock program.

Not every celebrity receives a second DUI, but not every celebrity attempts to turn their lives around so quickly either. As long as Michael Phelps continues on the path he’s on, he’ll be a great role model for people who’ve also made the choice to drink and drive.

Arguments Against Ignition Interlocks Don’t Hold Much Weight

ignition interlockIt’s Op-Ed going head to head against reader response in the Baltimore Sun recently, and the cause for debate is a topic that’s been showing up in Maryland newspapers for months.

Ignition interlock devices are big news in the state, and with good reason – currently only required for offenders who drive with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .15 or greater, a new bill has been proposed that would add Maryland to the growing list of states requiring interlock devices for all offenders.

On one side of the debate, Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute wrote an Op-Ed on March 6th, 2015 advocating ignition interlocks only for ‘hardcore’ offenders in the state. She made several points in her Op-Ed including:

  • Approximately 70% of Maryland’s alcohol-related fatalities involve a drunk driver with a BAC of .15 or higher
  • Drunk drivers who are required to install an ignition interlock device are not doing so, with only 15 to 20% actually following court orders to install the device
  • Penalties should be made on a case-by-case basis, with hardcore offenders bearing the brunt of the penalties and ignition interlock program. Judges should also have the option to require ‘marginal’ offenders, or offenders with only .08 BAC, to install the device at their discretion

On the other side, Nora Connell wrote an reader’s response for the same newspaper on March 11th, 2015. In it, she strongly opposes Longwell’s take on ignition interlocks, and you just can’t argue with her logic. Some of the highlights of her response include:

  • Even a ‘marginal’ offender with a BAC of .08 can take a life due to drinking and driving. You don’t have to be double the legal limit to be involved in an alcohol-related crash
  • Ignition interlocks are effective on their own, but they are even more effective when combined with mandatory treatment for alcohol addiction before they are removed
  • If non-compliance is an issue in Maryland, it should be treated with severe penalties

The facts are the facts – ignition interlock devices work. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates they reduce the likelihood that a drunk driver will drive drunk again by approximately 65%. Although the debate in Maryland will rage on until the state passes or opposes a new ignition interlock bill, it’s hard to argue that roads won’t be safer if more drunk drivers are required to install them.

All Offender Ignition Interlock Law May Be Coming To Maryland

ignition interlock 2015 may just the year of the ignition interlock law. Both California and Kentucky are looking to strengthen their driving under the influence (DUI) laws with new bills on the table, and now Maryland is considering doing the same.

Maryland Senate Bill 395 would require any convicted drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle they drive. This all offender ignition interlock law would replace the current law that only requires offenders with a BAC of .15 or higher to install the device. After a new law passed in 2014, any offender who is arrested while driving drunk with a child passenger is also required to install an ignition interlock device.

Maryland DUI laws already include a list of harsh penalties including jail time up to one year for first offenders, fines up to $1,000, driver’s license suspension for six months, and the possibility of vehicle impoundment. If the driver is transporting a minor, the fines double – they’ll pay fines up to $2,000 and may be in jail for up to two years.

But those penalties aren’t enough to stop drunk drivers in the state, and support for the new bill is growing. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility recently wrote a two-part series on why first offender ignition interlock law is important for Maryland. They cite statistics showing that ignition interlocks reduce the likelihood that a drunk driver will drive again by 64%, and they recommend that Maryland join the long list of states who are imposing all offender ignition interlock laws.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also stands in support of the potential new law, and with 141 alcohol-related deaths in Maryland in the past year, it can’t come a moment too soon. For more information on Maryland ignition interlocks, take a look at Guardian Interlock’s Maryland page.

It’s Probation For Michael Phelps

ignition interlock There aren’t that many people who haven’t heard of Michael Phelps. Known for being an 18-time medal recipient for Olympic swimming, he’s also a 29-year-old man on his second driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. Now, after several months of waiting, he’s been sentenced in Maryland courtroom for his crime of repeat drinking and driving.

Arrested in Maryland last year, Phelps was driving 84 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was double the legal limit and when stopped, he failed several field sobriety tests. Suspended from the US Swim Team for 6 months, Phelps went to drug and alcohol rehabilitation prior to his sentencing by a Maryland judge.

Although the exact specifics of his sentence aren’t known, it was released that Phelps was sentenced to the mandatory jail time for repeat offenders, but instead of heading to jail, Phelps received 18 months supervised probation along with drug and alcohol testing. As a condition of his probation, he’ll have to abstain from drinking any type of alcohol.

No matter who you are, when you’re charged for drunk driving in Maryland, there are stiff penalties to pay. The state has both DUI and driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws, and as a second offender Phelps most likely also received fines and a license suspension of up to one year. If he wants to drive before his license suspension expires, he’ll have to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle he drives.

Just like any drunk driver, there are consequences when you make the choice to drink and drive. Because of his suspension from the US Swim Team, there will be no world champion competitions on the horizon for Michael Phelps this year, and instead of Olympic swim meets, he’ll have a long period of time during his probation period to consider the mistake he made drinking and driving.

Maryland Wants To ENDUI With Smartphone App

ENDUI-app-MarylandThey have ignition interlock programs in place for repeat offenders and both driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) penalties in place for people who decide to drink and drive in the state, and now Maryland is turning to tech to continue their fight against drunk driving.

ENDUI, otherwise known as ‘End DUI’, is a new app developed by the Maryland Highway Safety Office and funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It’s designed specifically for smartphones users, because even though people are having a fun night out with friends, they spend a lot of time with their phones in their hands.

ENDUI has blood alcohol concentration (BAC) calculator so people using it can enter their gender, weight, height, and how many drinks they’ve had to get an approximate calculation of what their blood alcohol level could be. There are a few games users can play too, and they’re almost like digital versions of field sobriety tests.

One game has the user pressing a brake button when a pedestrian pops up on the screen or a car stops in front of them, and it assesses the person’s reaction time while avoiding a collision. Another game is modeled after the retro game SIMON – users watch as road signs blink and try to recall the order as each round gets more difficult.

In addition to the BAC calculator and games, the app also supplies phone numbers so users can easily contact a sober driver and has GPS to locate a cab nearby.

Although the app is designed as an assessment tool, it also comes with a near constant warning – no matter what your BAC is calculated at or how you perform on the games, any amount of alcohol consumed can result in an impaired driving charge. To really ENDUI, you shouldn’t drive after drinking at all.

New Guardian Interlock Location:
McFadden Service Center, Laurel, MD

A 21st birthday is a major event in any life – even that of an auto repair shop. Recently McFadden Service Center in Laurel, Maryland celebrated 21 years in business by becoming Guardian Interlock’s newest provider in the state. Since 1993 James Copeland has been providing a full array of automotive services in his shop, which is located in the “dead center” of Laurel at 141 Bowie Road. Customers come from nearby Columbia, Savage, and Fort Meade as well.

In addition to a full mcfadden-service-center-site-roster of ignition interlock (car breathalyzer) services – installation, training, monitoring, calibration and de-installation – the McFadden Service Center provides engine and transmission repair, as well as tuneups and brake work – “everything but body work.”

The shop offers six bays and five technicians, and services all vehicle makes and models.What makes McFadden Service Center special? “Me,” says owner James Copeland. “I’m not going to lie to you – everybody knows me.” And everybody in Laurel will attest that Copeland is as honest as they come.

If you’re in the vicinity of Laurel, Maryland and looking for an ignition interlock, weMcFadden-Service-Center-Interior invite you to pick up the phone and call 1-800-499-0994 or go here to make an appointment at McFadden Service Center, the newest member of the Guardian Interlock family.

Between their 21 years of experience satisfying customers and Guardian’s reputation for service, affordability and top-flight engineering, you’ll be on the road to success in no time.

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