Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Leggett Testifies in Favor of Drunk Driving Ignition Interlock Bill

Following is the testimony of County Executive Ike Leggett before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of HB 743, a bill sponsored by Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) that would mandate ignition interlocks on vehicles owned by convicted drunk drivers. The interlocks are breathalyzers that require the driver to submit a sober breath sample to start the vehicle. Leggett and his wife were hit by a repeat drunk driver in a car crash last year. Last year, the bill passed the Senate unanimously but did not get out of the House.

Testimony of County Executive Ike Leggett
Before the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee
March 3, 2010

Chairman Vallario, members of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to offer a few words of support for Delegate Kramer’s Drunk Driving Elimination Act, House Bill 743.

Last year I survived a very close call in an automobile collision.

My wife and I were hit by a repeat drunk driver - a man who allegedly ignored the conditions of his probation and jeopardized the public safety by making the decision to drink and drive again.

We cannot know how many times he made the decision to drive under these conditions since his sentencing in August of 2008.

Had this driver's sentence included the use of an Ignition Interlock device, I might not have experienced that crash. And, had this legislation passed last year, others might have been spared a similar ordeal.

Ignition interlocks are breathalyzer devices that arc wired into a vehicle's ignition system. To start the vehicle, the convicted offender has to provide a sober breath sample by blowing into the interlock device. Interlock technology has come a long way since their initial development in the early 1970s.

Interlocks are highly accurate, reducing repeat drunk driving offenses by 65 percent with circumvention protections in place to prevent cheating.

The polls show the public strongly in favor of mandating ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers. In a recent poll even 82 percent of offenders believe interlocks are effective and fair.

The common misconception is that "first-time" drunk drivers have made a “one-time” mistake. That is far from the reality. Research conducted by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration shows that first-time offenders on average have driven drunk 87 times before their first arrest.

Plainly put, mandatory interlocks for convicted drunk drivers in Maryland can help reduce the risk to public safety from drunk drivers.

What we can do, we should do. I urge your support for House Bill 743.