MADD’s National President Visits Annapolis to Stump for Ignition Interlocks

    The national president of the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving was in Annapolis this week, promoting legislation that would require all drunk driving offenders to use an ignition interlock in order to drive after their first offense.

    Lawmakers thought they had mandated this in Maryland when they passed Noah’s Law in 2016. Named for former Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver, the law was intended to require interlocks for all drunk driving offenders.

    But a loophole allows offenders to avoid using the ignition interlocks after certain plea agreements and probation before judgment. Legislation set to be introduced by Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary (D-Howard) aims to close the loophole. Smith is vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, while Atterbeary is vice chair of the Judiciary Committee.

    In a news conference, Helen Witty, MADD’s national president, called the bill “common-sense, life-saving legislation.”

    “This is a horrible, violent crime that we know how to stop,” said Witty, whose 16-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver while rollerblading on a hiker-biker trail in Florida.

    According to MADD, 75 percent of drunk driving offenders are driving on suspended licenses. Interlocking devices stopped 2.6 million driving attempts nationally between 2006-2017, and 50,000 attempts in Maryland during that period. The devices stopped 7,300 driving attempts in 2017 alone.

    “We know we can no longer take away driving privileges and hope for the best,” Witty said.

    [email protected]

    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.