Ignition Interlock in Maryland

In March, I wrote a post about failed efforts in Maryland to require DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. Specifically, the bill before the legislature this year would have required people convicted of alcohol-related offenses to only drive cars equipped with an ignition interlock system for some period. Simple premise: cars can’t start if you are not sober. My first thought is who would be opposed to this. It just makes too much sense.

Reading the Maryland State Bar Association Legislative Preview today, I found out something interesting I didn’t know: this bill passed the Maryland Senate 44-0 before getting stalled in the house judiciary committee. Okay, so no one person in the Maryland Senate thinks it is a terrible idea, but we can’t even get it to a vote in the House of Delegates?

I think the people of Maryland would be very depressed to see how the sausage is made.

How Ignition Interlock Works?

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a mechanism installed in a vehicle to prevent the engine from starting if the driver has consumed alcohol. Its primary purpose is to reduce the risk of drunk driving incidents. Here’s how an ignition interlock system typically works:

  1. Breath Test: When the driver enters the vehicle and attempts to start it, they are required to blow into a small breathalyzer unit attached to the IID. This unit measures the alcohol content in their breath.
  2. Alcohol Detection: The breathalyzer unit analyzes the breath sample to determine the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the driver. If the BAC is below a pre-set threshold (usually 0.02% to 0.04%), the vehicle will start as usual.
  3. Engine Lock: If the driver’s breath sample registers a BAC above the specified limit, the IID prevents the vehicle’s engine from starting. The car remains inoperable until a clean breath sample is provided.
  4. Rolling Retests: To prevent drivers from having someone else blow into the device and then taking over the wheel, most IIDs require “rolling retests.” While the vehicle is in motion, the driver may be prompted at random intervals to provide additional breath samples. If the driver fails to provide a clean sample during these retests, the device will log the event and possibly set off an alarm, such as the vehicle’s horn or lights, until the ignition is turned off.
  5. Data Logging: Ignition interlock devices typically record data related to breath tests, rolling retests, and any attempts to tamper with or bypass the device. This data is often stored and periodically transmitted to authorities or monitoring agencies.
  6. Periodic Calibration and Maintenance: IIDs require regular calibration and maintenance to ensure accuracy and reliability. Drivers are usually responsible for covering the costs associated with these services.
  7. Lockout Periods: Some ignition interlock devices include a temporary lockout feature. If a driver fails a breath test or misses a rolling retest, the vehicle may enter a temporary lockout mode, which disables the engine for a certain period. The length of the lockout can vary depending on state regulations and device settings.

Required Reading

This comment to my last blog post on this should be required reading for the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee:

Our son died as a passenger in an alcohol-related car accident in 2002. Since then we have been trying to get a law passed for Ignition Interlock Devices in every car. State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has been working with us and there is a bill in the NYS assembly which we are hoping will become a law some day. My husband and I also hoped that the law would be named Christopher’s Law, similar to Megan’s Law and our son would have died for something. We always believed that the technology could advance to more than blowing into a device but rather detecting blood alcohol levels through the skin; for example through a steering wheel. This shouldn’t be too difficult; the technology is already there with bracelets that detect blood alcohol levels through the skin.

You can find more information about this at our blog and our website.

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