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Maryland drinking and driving laws under fire

In Maryland and across the country 10,322 people lost their lives in accidents involving drivers that got behind the wheel after drinking in 2012. If this year follows the pattern set in prior years, the number of deaths due to drinking and driving could reach 900 in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. In an effort to lower recidivism rates for DUI, 20 states now require every convicted drunk driver to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle.

Maryland currently does not require first time offenders to have such a device. Many drunk driving advocacy groups such as MADD are working to see Maryland change existing laws. The Governors Highway Safety Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation support this effort.

DUIs are reduced an estimated 65 percent when drivers have an ignition interlock device. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that percentage to be as high as 75 percent. The driver must perform a breath test before the vehicle will start. If the device registers that the driver is intoxicated, the vehicle will not start.

Nearly everyone agrees that drinking and driving is dangerous and that the number of people killed by drunk drivers needs to be reduced. Nevertheless, not every person charged with a first time DUI is guilty of the accusations. Before any conviction can be secured, government prosecutors are charged with proving the criminal allegations in court and beyond a reasonable doubt. If the law is changed, however, it may become even more important for those accused to work to keep a DUI conviction off a driver's record in order to avoid having to face the prospect of installing such a costly device and suffering the other consequences that typically befall those found guilty.

Source: wtop.com, Advocates want to change Md., D.C. drunk driving law, Kate Ran, Dec. 18, 2013

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