Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) is a very serious violation. On a technical level, it means that the blood alcohol concentration level was posted at a level of 0.08 or higher. On a first offense, a DUI sentence can mean license revocation up to six months, a fine of $1,000, imprisonment up to 1 year and 12 points on your license. On a second offense, a DUI can mean a one year license suspension with a required “Ignition Interlock Device”, a fine of $2,000, a mandatory minimum of 5 days of imprisonment with a maximum of 2 year, 12 points on your license and mandatory participation in alcohol abuse assessment and program.
The true cost of a DUI is more than monetary and can follow you for the rest of your life. Aside from any potential criminal charges, drivers will face stiff penalties with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration for failing or refusing to take a chemical test. At this point in the process, drivers can either request a hearing to contest their charges or enroll in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program, commonly referred to as “Blow and Go.”
Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program began in 1989. The program is monitored by the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). The program today is fully automated, allowing the MVA to efficiently monitor participants and take action against any violators. Maryland has the sixth highest number of ignition interlocks installed and the ninth highest usage rate in the nation.
If a driver elects to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program, the program duration is 180 days, if they submitted to a test and posted an alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 but less than 0.15. The duration will be extended to 1 year if the alcohol concentration registered at 0.15 or higher or if the driver refused to submit to the test. To be considered eligible, drivers must have a license that is not currently suspended, cancelled, revoked or refused. The driver must have an ignition interlock system installed (at their own expense) in their vehicle within 30 days, surrender their driver’s license to the MVA and elect, in writing, to participate in the program.
The ignition interlock device connects to a motor vehicle’s ignition system and when blown into, measures a driver’s alcohol concentration to prevent the engine’s start if the concentration exceeds the calibrated setting on the device. Blowing a level greater than .25 it will not allow the engine to start. Blowing less than .25 – from the expression, it will ‘blow and go.”
Not to be taken lightly, drinking and driving is a serious public health and safety issue. In Maryland alone, over the past five years, impaired drivers have accounted for nearly one-third of all roadway deaths. On average, there are 7,884 impaired driving crashes statewide and resulting in 171 fatalities and more than 4,000 deaths each year.
This should all be sobering data. The key take-away, is that the ignition interlock or “Blow and Go” program is a valuable tool that helps keep drunk drivers off the road. Let’s hope to see these numbers turn around in the years to come.