JOSEPH F. VALLARIO JR., chairman of the House Judiciary Comittee in Maryland and a defense attorney by profession, has made a career of making problems go away for drunk drivers -- both in the courthouse and in the legislature. He proved it once again in the recently ended legislative session in Annapolis by killing a measure that has proven effective elsewhere in preventing drunk drivers from operating vehicles. As a result, Maryland missed an opportunity to diminish the carnage on its roads, and the General Assembly blew a chance to rehabilitate its reputation as a haven of good-old-boy lawmakers in bed with special interests such as the alcohol industry.
Mr. Vallario killed a bill that would have allowed convicted drunk drivers to start their cars only after after blowing into the mouthpiece of devices installed on their dashboards that determine whether they are sober. The devices, called ignition interlocks, are simple and effective. In New Mexico and Arizona, where they are required for those guilty of driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or above -- a 180-pound man who's downed more than four beers in a hour, for instance -- they've helped cut the number of liquor-related accidents and deaths. The bill was passed without dissent by the state Senate and backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the state police, Gov. Martin O'Malley, and, quite probably, a majority of the members of Mr. Vallario's committee.
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