Every day, as we commute to work, or drive our kids to school, we face the dangerous reality of an encounter with an impaired driver. This reality can be hidden by impersonal statistics until it becomes all too personal, as it did for the friends and family of Miriam Frankl, a 20-year-old student at Johns Hopkins University, whose promising life was ended on October 17 by a hit and run driver. Today the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the "Eliminate Drunk Driving" act, which could prevent, or at the least greatly reduce the probability, of such tragedies in the future.
The bill would make Maryland the 10th state to mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. These devices combine breathalyzers placed in a car with an interlock system to prevent it from starting if the driver has an elevated blood alcohol concentration. New Mexico, the first state to pass such legislation for a first offense, experienced a 65 percent decrease in repeat drunk driving offenses and a one-third reduction in fatalities.
In Maryland, almost one third of fatalities involved alcohol in 2008. The Baltimore Sun reported last fall that as of April 2008, 25,120 Marylanders had been convicted three or more times of DWI. Of these, 3,980 had been convicted five times or more. The bill being considered by the Judiciary Committee is designed to keep these drivers off the roads if they are impaired.
Drunk driving is associated with numerous tragedies every year. People in Maryland have their property destroyed, lose their loved ones and sustain injuries, sometimes fatal. Ignition interlocks are a proven, cost-effective way to bring about much needed change and to stop the accidents involving impaired drivers that have become all too familiar on Maryland's roads.
Many of Miriam's friends and sorority sisters will be present for today's hearing, showing their support for this bill. As one of her sorority sisters, I share the pain and devastation that resulted from Miriam's death with her family and friends. Miriam's love of life and bright spirit will forever touch those who knew her -- those who are now devastated by the loss of such a special, promising young woman.
Natalie Draisin, Baltimore
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