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JESSUP, Md. (Sept. 21, 2009) – At a press conference earlier today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced sweeping changes in Maryland’s DUI laws that will go into effect October 1. Brown was joined at the Howard County Department of Corrections by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Senator Jennie Forehand, Administrative Chief Judge Thomas E. Dewberry and State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen, who served as Chairman to the Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol to promote the new laws.
Four bills were passed during the 2009 legislative session that tighten Maryland’s impaired driving laws:
-- A bill that mandates of one-year driver’s license suspensions for persons convicted twice of Maryland’s impaired driving statutes;
-- A bill outlawing the “consumption” of alcohol by those under 21 (law enforcement officials now will be able to charge offenders with consumption if they can prove the youth had possession of the alcohol and is proven to be under the influence) and criminalizes the furnishing of alcohol to minors;
-- A bill that prohibits a DUI offender from receiving a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) more than once in a 10 year period; and
-- A provision for fines and incarceration for persons violating a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) imposed driver’s license alcohol restriction.
More than one-fourth of the traffic fatalities that robbed Maryland’s families of their mothers, fathers and children last year were committed by drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The state’s 152 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2008 represented 26 percent of the 592 total number of traffic deaths. In the continuing crusade to end these devastating tragedies, the Maryland General Assembly, legislative leaders, safety advocates and concerned citizens joined together to bolster the fight against impaired driving with four new DUI laws that become effective October 1.
“Despite the massive education and enforcement efforts underway to prevent impaired driving, Marylanders are still drinking and getting behind the wheel,” said Chief of Natural Resources Police and President of the Maryland Chiefs of Police George Johnson, IV. “Maryland law enforcement officers arrest 24,000 people annually for impaired driving. A large percentage of these lawbreakers are repeat offenders. Additionally, we’ve seen an increase of impaired driving by young, inexperienced drivers, who should not have access to alcohol in the first place.”
Members of the Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol, which was formed during the 2007 General Assembly, were on hand for the Lt. Governor’s announcement.
After 18 months of in-depth review of Maryland’s impaired driving system, including expert testimony and intense evaluation of the laws, judicial system, enforcement, intervention and treatment programs, the Task Force submitted a report with 42 recommendations to help strengthen impaired driving prevention. This report has been touted as one of the best comprehensive reports and set of recommendations in Maryland’s history.
According to a AAA Mid-Atlantic poll, most Marylanders support these firm measures to address the problem. Approximately two-thirds of Marylanders felt strongly that closing legal loopholes to ensure jail terms for drunk drivers would help to combat drunk driving. In addition, MWR Strategies, a respected research firm that has conducted Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign surveys since 2002, surveyed 800 adults in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia in July 2009. Among the campaign’s target audience of males aged 21-35, key findings included that nearly three-quarters (72-percent) of these local drivers perceive drunk driving as one of the most serious dangers faced on area roadways.
For more information about impaired driving initiatives and highway safety please visit checkpointstrikeforce.net or www.choosesafetyforlife.com.
Source: Office of Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown