Annapolis, MD-Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill that will require DUI drivers who are caught with a minor child in their vehicle to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
Maryland law already has a law which makes ignition interlocks mandatory for drivers who have a .15 blood alcohol content, but the new law will expand it included intoxicated adults who driver with children under age 16 and under whose BAC is at least .08, the Washington Post reported. The new law addresses what many see as growing problem in Maryland and the nation as a whole.
Most states apply enhanced penalties for drunken drivers with children in their car and often attach charges of child endangerment on top of the DUI charges. In some states, the DUI penalties are doubled when a minor child is present and often include mandatory jail sentences. But few states make ignition interlock devices mandatory.
New York passed Leandra’s Law in 2009 which makes the charge of DUI with minor child, a felony and calls for the automatic suspension of the accused driver’s license. The law also requires convicted drivers to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles for at least six months. Since then only a handful of states, which include Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, have made ignition interlocks mandatory. Maryland can now be added to the list.
A study conducted by the Erie Family Health Center in Chicago found that between 2001 and 2010, 2,334 children died in car accidents involving drunk drivers. The surprising thing about the finding is that in 65 percent of those accidents it wasn’t a drunk driver in another car causing the accident, but the parents or guardians of the children who were driving drunk.
On the upside, the researchers found that between 2001 and 2010, fatal drunken driving accidents involving children have declined 41 percent. The reasons for the decline are a matter of debate, but lead researcher Dr. Kyran Quinlan told Reuters Health he believes the decline is due in part to public service campaigns and increased use of safety belts.
The study showed that in 61 percent of child-involved fatal crashes, the child was not wearing their safety belts. As the parent’s BAC increased use of safety belts decreased.
“About 70 percent of the time the drunk driver survived the crash,” Quinlan said, adding that the child might have survived the crash of they were properly restrained.
To reduce child drunk driving deaths, the researchers recommend stronger child endangerment laws, more sobriety checkpoints and zero tolerance policies. Reuters Health reported. They also recommended making ignition interlock devices mandatory.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data for the Fatality Analysis Reporting System which tracks fatal traffic accidents in the U.S.
While there are some parents who are completely aware of how intoxicated they are when they get behind the wheel, there are others that don’t realize they are impaired and have surpassed the legal limit. There is a difference between willful endangerment and making a mistake so offenders should hire a DUI attorney to work on their defense.