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How well does the law guard against drunk drivers?

This year, Maryland’s penalties for drunk driving will increase but will the changes be enough to help prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths?

For several decades now, public campaigns about the dangers of operating motor vehicles after drinking alcoholic beverages have been launched in Maryland and around the nation. Despite the increased awareness and education, too many people continue to make the risky choice to drive after they have consumed alcohol. Just how big of a problem is drunk driving in Maryland?

A look at drunk driving fatality statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects and publishes information about traffic fatalities, including those attributed to the influence of alcohol. In looking at the five years spanning 2010 through 2014, the state experienced an increase in drunk driving deaths for a few years followed by a decline in 2013 and 2014. In Prince George's County, the number of people killed in drunk driving accidents went up and then down before spiking again.

Detailed data shows the following:

  • In 2010, there were 154 drunk driving deaths statewide and 30 in Prince George's County.
  • Maryland lost 161 lives and Prince George's County 36 lives to drunk drivers in 2011.
  • State deaths numbered 163 in 2012 while county fatalities numbered 23.
  • The state recorded a drop to 135 alcohol-related deaths in 2013 while the county recorded an increase to 33.
  • In 2014, 130 drunk driving fatalities occurred in Maryland, 41 of which occurred in Prince George's County.

The 41 fatalities in Prince George's County in 2014 represented a large portion of the county's total vehicular fatalities . In all, 98 people died in all automotive accidents in the county that year.

Maryland's drunk driving penalties

As explained by the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration, drivers arrested for impaired operation after October 1 of this year will face harsher penalties than those arrested before October 1. That is because a new law recently passed will take effect on October 1, 2016.

The law stipulates that all drivers convicted of a drunk driving offense, including those convicted for their first-ever offenses, will be required to use ignition interlock devices. An IID may be ordered for anywhere from six to 36 months depending upon the circumstances or prior offenses on record.

Fines, jail sentences, points on driving records and loss of driving privileges can also be imposed for drunk drivers. Additionally, even a driver with a blood alcohol level below the legal limit can be convicted of an impaired driving offense.

What victims and families should know

It seems amazing to many that despite what seem to be very strict penalties drivers continue to take the chance on getting behind the wheel after drinking. For this reason, people in Maryland should be prepared to seek legal help if they or their loved ones are ever involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver.

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The firm of Reinstein, Glackin, Patterson & Herriott, LLC, practices law in Bowie, Maryland. It works with clients in the cities of Bowie, Columbia, Annapolis, Crofton, Upper Marlboro, Odenton, Glenn Dale, La Plata, Dunkirk, Prince Frederick, Severna Park, Hyattsville, Clinton, Silver Spring and Forestville, and in these counties: Prince George's County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, St. Mary's County, Charles County and Montgomery County.

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