‘Noah’s Law’ is common sense
A number of new laws affecting drivers went into effect in Maryland on Saturday, including one requiring possession of proof of auto insurance, but the one with the most lasting impact will certainly be “Noah’s Law.”
In an otherwise lackluster General Assembly session earlier this year, the legislature can be justifiably proud of this bill, which passed unanimously in both the Senate and House of Delegates before being quickly and enthusiastically signed by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Noah’s Law has been heralded by Mothers Against Drunk Driving as the nation’s toughest such legislation requiring ignition interlock devices for anyone convicted of driving drunk. An ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting when it detects a certain level of alcohol on the driver’s breath, and also requires the driver to retest at random points while they are driving.
We applaud the legislature and governor for steering this bill into law, and support local law officers in its enforcement tomorrow and thereafter.
Noah’s Law was named for Noah Leotta, a Montgomery County police officer who was struck last December by a drunken driver shortly after the officer had pulled over another suspected drunken driver. He died a few days later.
So here are some of the details on what the new law covers:
After their arrest, all first-time offenders with at least a 0.08 blood alcohol level must either install an ignition interlock device for at least 180 days or relinquish their driving privileges during a 180-day license suspension.
Also, Maryland judges are required to order an ignition interlock for at least six months for first-time convicted drunken drivers.
In addition, the period of requiring an ignition interlock or license suspension for suspected drunken drivers who refuse a chemical test has been boosted to 270 days for the first offense under Noah’s Law. Previously, that period had been 120 days for the first offense. A driver can avoid the license suspension by installing an ignition interlock for one year.
Also, Noah’s Law eliminates certain driving restrictions for people who install an ignition interlock. In the past, drivers who installed an interlock also had time and route restrictions while on the device.
Hogan had already taken administrative action earlier this year to expand the use of ignition interlocks as an option to all first offenders. Noah’s Law strengthens that action by requiring all first and subsequent offenders to install an ignition interlock during a license suspension. Previously, only first offenders who registered blood alcohol levels of 0.15 and above blood alcohol concentration — nearly twice the legal limit — and repeat offenders were ordered to use an ignition interlock.
Maryland became the 26th state to pass such a law, and similar legislation is pending in six other states.
“Drunk driving kills and ignition interlock is a key tool to end drinking and driving,” Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said of Noah’s Law last week.
According to Rahn, over the past five years, impaired drivers have accounted for roughly one-third of all roadway deaths in Maryland. On average, there have been 7,884 impaired driving crashes statewide, resulting in 171 fatalities and 4,026 injuries every year.
Maryland’s tough new law shows that we’re regarding drunken driving for the crime it is. If it saves even one life, it’s well worth the prevention effort.