‘Noah’s Law’ is com­mon sense

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

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.

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