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Commentary Justice

MADD: Will the General Assembly Finally Fix Noah’s Law?

Photo by Angela Breck.

By Roderick Howard and Rich Leotta

Howard is Mothers Against Drunk Driving Mid-Atlantic regional executive director. Leotta is the father of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta.

The outrage and tragedy of drunk driving deaths is that they are entirely preventable. For three years, we’ve introduced legislation to strengthen Noah’s Law, named for Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, who was killed by a repeat drunk driver in the line of duty.

At Mothers Against Drunk Driving, we refer to bills like Noah’s Law as “all-offender” laws. What does that mean?

Drunk driving offenders are offered a chance to resume normal life if they do one simple thing: put an ignition interlock on their car. Since our victory in Maryland, 35 other states have followed suit – and some have gone much farther.

Multiple studies show that drunk drivers who have ignition interlocks installed after their first arrest are up to 75% less likely to have a repeat drunk driving offense.

Noah’s Law is working but it needs an important fix.

Since passage, drunk driving arrests have decreased by 18%. But the number of Marylanders killed by drunk drivers has stubbornly remained too high – more than 160 moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends and children are killed on Maryland roads every year.

What’s the problem?

Our “all-offender” law could actually be called the “one-third law.” Why? Because we require ignition interlocks for a conviction. First-time drunk drivers typically end up with a probation before judgment. This is an incredible loophole.

Here’s the loophole by the numbers:

Science tells us the key to success is targeting first-time offenders. And MADD’s own state-by-state analysis tells us that a true all-offender law will reduce deaths. The Hogan administration and the Motor Vehicle Administration agree that ignition interlocks are important safety tools.

When you look at the numbers above, it is shocking that we are back here for a third year.

We implore the Maryland legislature to pass SB653/HB557. This lifesaving legislation will help Maryland put drunk driving deaths in the rearview.