Analysis: MVA wants tweaks to controversial drunk driving restriction

Convicted drunk drivers who accidentally set off their ignition interlock system might get another chance to drive home that night, provided they’ve had mouthwash instead of bourbon.

Although the fight to expand the state’s ignition interlock program for those convicted of drunk driving was for naught in the General Assembly, the Motor Vehicle Administration continues to make its own tweaks to what they call a “relatively new” program.

One of those changes allows the state to recognize “false positive” readings, caused by substances other than alcoholic beverages.

The ignition interlock program allows drivers convicted of alcohol-related offenses to continue to drive their cars, provided the device installed in their car determines them to be sober.

The MVA has proposed administrative changes to the program, which requires participants to install a device that prevents drivers from turning on their cars if alcohol is detected on their breath. One change would allow drivers a second attempt to start their vehicles in the case of a false positive reading.

Buel Young, a spokesman for the MVA, said that under current law and regulations, if the ignition interlock device detects a 0.026 or higher blood alcohol level, it is considered an “infraction” and the car will not start.

“Some were saying you could get a false blow at that level from mouthwash or something like that,” Young said. “So [the new regulation] stipulates that after five minutes you can blow again before being charged the infraction.”

The agency has also proposed extending the right to a hearing for all participants if they are removed from the program. When a participant is removed from the program during the supervision period, that person may not drive at all.

“Based on the way a person is referred to the program, only certain people are entitled to a hearing,” Young said. “Those that have their license revoked for accumulation of points, of which some are alcohol related, can opt to enter the program instead of having their license suspended. [Under current regulations,] if they are removed, they cannot request a hearing.”

–Erich Wagner

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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