Ethics & Religion
March 31, 2016
Maryland Toughens Drunk Driving Laws
By Mike McManus
publicized deaths due to drunk driving, Maryland is close to passing a
law that will require anyone convicted of drunk driving to install an
ignition interlock device about the size of a cell phone into the
ignition system of their car. The driver must blow into it to start the
vehicle. If it detects any alcohol in their system, the car will not
State Sen. Jamie Raskin, sponsor of the bill that passed the Senate,
said "There has never been such broad sentiment for the interlock
before. We have to stop being permissive about drunk driving and the
What sparked the legislation was the death of Noah Leotta, 24, a police
officer who was on duty at a drunk driving checkpoint when he was struck
and killed by a vehicle whose driver was intoxicated and had previous
A similar bill dubbed "Noah's Law," has passed the Maryland House that
will require an interlock if the driver has .08% blood alcohol content (BAC)
- while current law requires an interlock only if the BAC level is 1.5%
- nearly twice as high. Maryland will join 26 states with this tougher
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) began its drive for the interlock
in 2006 when only one state required it for all offenders, and 13 states
had no law at all. New Mexico, the pioneer, reported a nearly 40% drop
in fatal crashes after passing the law, according to Carl MacDonald of
The number of cars with interlocks has jumped from 100,000 to 400,000.
Result: the number of deaths involving one driver due to DUI (Driving
Under Influence) has plunged in half from 12,139 to 6,390 in 2014
reports Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
However, nine states such as Louisiana, Indiana, and most counties in
California* have no mandatory interlocks for first offenders and 14
states require them only for high BAC offenders such as Maryland,
Florida and Nevada.
Last August this column reported another case in Maryland that involved
the deaths of two teenagers after Kenneth Saltzman, 49, permitted
alcohol to be served at a party hosted by his son. Six weeks after the
accident I was critical of police for not charging Saltzman for allowing
underage drinking. Some weeks later he was issued two criminal
citations, and levied the maximum fine of $2,500 for each offense.
That seemed trivial given the fact that Alex Murk and Calvin Li died
shortly after graduating from high school, and the driver, who was a
star quarterback, was seriously injured but survived. All three boys
were outstanding athletes.
The Maryland Senate unanimously approved a bill authorizing prison
sentences for adults who provide alcohol to people who are underage, or
host a party where someone younger than 21 is drinking.
What has become known as the "Alex and Calvin Law" will stiffen the
penalty to up to a year in prison and a fine of $5,000 for a first
offense and up to two years in prison and a $7,500 fine for a second or
subsequent offense. Some 26 states have such a law.
During hearings, family members and law enforcement officials urged
lawmakers to pass such a bill in Maryland. David Murk and Paul Li,
fathers of the dead teenagers, gave emotional testimony, with Li telling
the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that his heart "was shattered
in pieces" when he went to the morgue to identify his son's body.
The judicial committee took a very unusual step of voting on the bill
before the testimony was finished. It received a unanimous vote and
people in the audience cheered while families of the two boys wept. The
bill also passed in the House by a 136-3 vote.
Scripture is certainly clear. "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has
strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot
"Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine."
Every state should stiffen its DUI laws to save lives of both the
drinkers and of the innocent.
*Only four California counties require interlock mandates: Los Angeles,
Alameda, Tulare, and Sacramento.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus is
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To see past
columns go to www.ethicsandreligion.com
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