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Failed Compromise Kills Ignition Interlock Legislation in Md.

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Legislation that would have required first-time drunk driving offenders in Maryland to use an ignition interlock Breathalyzer in their vehicles has died after an influential House committee chairman suggested applying the mandate only to drivers registering a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit, the Washington Post reported April 19.

The action by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., which stalled legislation that had passed the state Senate, has prompted the national executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to push for federal penalties on states that do not require ignition interlock use for all drunk driving offenders.

“We absolutely believe there were votes [in the Judiciary Committee] for the Senate-passed bill,” said MADD’s Chuck Hurley. “The very fact that there wasn’t a vote tells you that the only way [Vallario] could kill it was by putting it in a drawer.”

Vallario told fellow committee members in a memo that he regrets that a compromise on the legislation could not be achieved. He originally insisted that the threshold for ignition interlock use be set at 0.15, then said he offered to lower that to 0.12. However, he said, “The advocates have indicated they would rather have no legislation passed than the compromise we have proposed.”

MADD and other advocacy groups are placing blame on Vallario for not including them in substantive discussions. The executive director of MADD’s Maryland chapter said the organization would have fought against 0.12; it supports the 0.08 legal limit as the threshold to require the ignition-interlock devices. 

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