Drunken driving causes on average 7,884 crashes in Maryland each year, killing about 170 people. Anything the state can do to reduce that number is welcome, whether through prevention, which is preferable, or enforcement — or a combination of both, as in Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to expand the state’s ignition-interlock program.

“Our administration is committed to protecting all Marylanders by taking the common sense steps that will help prevent drunk driving,” Hogan said in a statement. “These proposed regulations will make our roads and communities safer by ensuring past drunk driving offenders cannot start their car after they have been drinking.”

Currently, only drivers arrested on suspicion of drunken driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or more can opt into the program, so they can continue to drive, rather than being stripped of their license, which is suspended at the time of arrest.

Other impaired drivers, those who have a BAC over 0.08 or higher, but lower than 0.15, don’t have that choice unless they wait weeks until the option to join the ignition-interlock program becomes available at an administrative hearing on their case.

Other options are available, but we won’t get into the weeds here. Suffice to say that ignition-interlock devices — into which drivers have to blow a sober breath in order to get their vehicles to start — has been proven to save lives.

About a third of drunken drivers are repeat offenders and, on average, a drunken driver has driven inebriated 80 times before his or her first arrest, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Of those who are caught, anywhere from half to three quarters continue to drive on a suspended license. Of course, only a mandatory ignition interlock system would prevent this latter category from making the dangerous and sometimes fatal choice to get back on the road. Making these devices mandatory has been proposed in the past, only to fail to make it out of the Maryland General Assembly.

According to a review by the CDC of 15 scientific studies of ignition interlock programs, “Researchers found that while these devices were installed, re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving decreased by a median of 67 percent relative to comparison groups.” The state anticipates about 3,300 more offenders would join 11,000 enrolled in the program under the expansion, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Hogan’s proposal would allow those charged with driving while intoxicated — or DWIs — and whose blood alcohol content is 0.08 and over to enroll in the ignition interlock program without having to wait for the administrative hearing, which costs $150. More if the defendant decides to employ a lawyer.

That’s not to say the installation of the interlock device is cheap, either, at about $100 each. They also come with a monthly monitoring fee of up to $90, as users are required to report each month to have the device’s data checked. However, this is a welcome measure, one that encourages prevention, but also has a component of enforcement, and we support it.

(12) comments

Quisling

Big government idea from a small government Governor.

DickD

Now that marijuana has been legalized as a medically allowed drug, it will not doubt become more rampant among those that seek to use it for recreational purposes. For this reason alone. ignoring the already wide use of marijuana, it should be added to this bill to make sure those "high" on marijuana cannot and will not drive and be a menace on the highways.

public-redux

If MJ is already in wide use, as you say, then an increase in auto accidents from MJ use ought to be fairly small.

We also should consider the substitution effect. Maybe auto accidents attributable to alcohol use will decrease if some people switch to MJ and drive stoned rather than drunk. The "road menace" index may not move much at all.

DickD

You missed where I said it would be more rampant and why would we exempt marijuana and do it for alcohol, which has existed far longer?

public-redux

I didn't miss what you wrote. I'm suggesting that your argument is structurally weak.

So far as I know, no has suggested exempting MJ impairment from driving laws.

DickD

I am not suggesting exempting it from anything, I said add it to them. Alcohol is legal, marijuana for recreational purposes is not.

BryceH

"Some reviewers have concluded that there is no evidence that cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for crashes, and may actually reduce risk.66 Drummer’s review of blood samples of traffic fatalities in Australia found that drivers testing positive for marijuana were actually less likely to have been judged responsible for the accident.67 Several other studies have found no increase in crash risk with cannabis.68–70 Williams’ California study of 440 male traffic accident deaths found that while alcohol use was related to crash culpability, cannabis use was not."

Sorry to poke a hole in your crusade to continue Cannabis prohibition DickD

DickD

Poke a hole - I don't think so. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving
From the National Institute of Drug Abuse:Updated May 2015

This result is likely because subject under the influence of marijuana are aware of their impairment and compensate for it accordingly, such as by slowing down and by focusing their attention when they know a response will be required. This reaction is just the opposite of that exhibited by drivers under the influence of alcohol, who tend to drive in a more risky manner proportional to their intoxication.
Scientists need to conduct more research to know how much of a drug impairs a person’s driving ability. But even small amounts of some drugs can have a measurable effect. Some states have zero-tolerance laws for drugged driving. This means a person can face charges for driving under the influence (DUI) if there isany amount of drug in the blood or urine. It is important to note that many states are waiting for research to better define blood levels that indicate impairment, such as those they use with alcohol.

It is hard to measure how many accidents drugged driving causes. This is because:

a good roadside test for drug levels in the body does not yet exist
people are not usually tested for drugs if they are above the legal limit for alcohol because there is already enough evidence for a DUI charge
many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol or more than one drug in their system, making it hard to know which substance had the greater effect.One NHTSA study found that in 2009, 18 percent of drivers killed in an accident tested positive for at least one drug—an increase from 13 percent in 2005 (NHTSA, 2010). A 2010 study showed that 11.4 percent of fatal crashes involved a drugged driver (Wilson, 2010).
One NHTSA study found that in 2009, 18 percent of drivers killed in an accident tested positive for at least one drug—an increase from 13 percent in 2005 (NHTSA, 2010). A 2010 study showed that 11.4 percent of fatal crashes involved a drugged driver (Wilson, 2010).

public-redux

Dick, the first paragraph supports Bryce and undermines your argument. The remaining paragraphs are not specific to MJ and, consequently, can't be used to support your argument.

You scored an own goal.

BryceH

You posted from the same study as i did DickD. Not sure if you realize it , but the first paragraph of your post makes the case for why Cannabis is much less likely to cause accidents than alcohol . Thanks...

DickD

We certainly interpret it differently, but I am not interested in making marijuana legal for recreational purposes.

public-redux

Your interpretation that "A is less likely than B" means that "A is more likely than B" is different all right. Faith sure make people say strange stuff.

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