Hearing reveals clashing views on ignition interlock
Proponents of various approaches to drunk driving clashed vigorously today over the circumstances under which a convicted drunk driver should be required to install ignition interlock devices to prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver has been drinking alcohol.
Del. Benjamin Kramer, sponsor of the bill favored by most anti-drunk driving advocates, denounced a rival bill introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario as one that fails to make any use of ignition interlock mandatory.
With Vallario presiding, Kramer told the committee the chairman's bill is "not going to change anything that we're doing right now." He said Vallario's bill, which focuses on so-called "super-drunk" drivers who test with a blood-alcohol content over .15 percent doesn't even make the devices manadatory for those drivers.
The bill introduced by Kramer would make use of ignition interlock mandatory for all drivers who are convicted of driving under the influence -- which is defined in law as having a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or greater.
Vallario did not testify on behalf of his own bill but briefly said that if he didn't introduce it, there would have been no opportunity to argue against the idea of a threshhold of .15.
His bill was represented by Del. Kathleen Dumais, vice chairwoman of the committee, who insisted "the chairman's bill does quite a bit." But Dumais expressed hope that the committee could put together a bill out of the various proposals that "we're proud of bring to the floor" of the House of Delegates.
The Kramer and Vallario bills were two of four measures on the subject that were heard by the committee, but it was Kramer's bill that received the support of most traditional anti-drunk driving activists.
Vallario's bill received the support of liquor distributors, including the Maryland State License Beverage Distributors Association. Some of the witnesses, including many of those representing the insurance industry, urged the committee to craft a bill drawing on parts of all the various proposals.
Lt. Tom Woodward, representing the Maryland State Police, signed up in favor of all the competing bills but urged the delegates to amend the Vallario bill to the point where it would more closely resemble Kramer's bill.
Woodward, commander of the Hagerstown barracks, particularly rejected the idea of a two-tier system based on blood-alcohol levels above .08. He dismissed the .15 standard as "totally ludicrous."
"There are no statistics out there that validate any numbers above .08," he said. "Please pass an ignition interlock bill, a meaningful ignition interlock bill and not a feel-good."
Jay Schwartz, a lobbyist representing the state's retail liquor industry, rejected the idea of getting all the stakeholders together to draft a compromise bill. He came out squarely for the Vallario bill, saying his industry still doesn't like the .08 standard that has been adopted nationwide.
"We think that got social drinkers. We still think that got social drinkers," he said.