Maryland Governor Backs Ignition Lock for Drunk Drivers

February 22, 2010

Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday he would support requiring first-time drunk drivers to install ignition locking systems in their vehicles, so they couldn’t drive them if they’ve had too much to drink.

O’Malley announced his support for the measure while speaking to the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation. He also said he backed a ban on reading text messages while driving, a measure the Legislature also is considering this year.

The ignition lock measure would require drunk drivers to pay for the costs of putting the systems in their vehicles, if they are convicted of drunken driving or given probation after being charged.

“I’d sign that if they got it to me,” O’Malley said in a brief interview after speaking to the group.

A drunken driver would have to participate in the program for six months on a first violation, a year for a second violation and three years for a third or subsequent violation.

Maryland judges can now order drunken drivers to install the devices, but they are not automatically required.

The device, which is installed in the dashboard of a vehicle, requires a person to blow into it. If a driver’s breath alcohol content is above a set limit, the car won’t start. They can cost up to $200 to install, and a monthly rental fee can be as high as $100 a month.

Caroline Cash, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for Maryland and Delaware, said supporters of the measure are counting on the governor’s support.

“There is so much support not only from legislators but also from the public, and it’s really about the public,” Cash said.

O’Malley also says he supports a ban on reading text messages while driving. Last year, he signed a measure to ban the sending of text messages, but Maryland drivers can still legally read them while behind the wheel.

“I don’t understand why we’re still allowed to read the messages,” O’Malley said.

Delegate James Malone, D-Baltimore County, said a vote on the measure he is sponsoring by the House Environmental Matters Committee could come Thursday afternoon, but the committee did not take it up.


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