- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday announced legislation that will crack down on the state’s worst drivers by increasing fines for repeat offenders and imposing stricter penalties on underage drunken drivers.

More than 640 people died on Maryland roads in 2004, including 79 in Montgomery County, officials said.

At a press conference in Bethesda, Mr. Ehrlich, state Sen. Rob Garagiola and Delegate William Bronrott said the two bills they plan to introduce to the General Assembly are aimed at curbing the number of traffic fatalities.

“Safety is my top priority …,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. “This is a great opportunity for both parties to come together and make Maryland a safer place to live.”

Under a bill sponsored by Mr. Garagiola and Mr. Bronrott, both Montgomery County Democrats, drivers with three or more points on their licenses will be charged an additional $50 per point by the Motor Vehicle Administration for three successive years.

Fewer than 3 percent of the 3.8 million licensed drivers in Maryland have three or more points on their licenses, officials said.

The bill also will increase fines for drivers caught without insurance.

The fine currently is $150 if a driver is caught during the first 30 days of an insurance lapse and $7 a day after the first 30 days, up to a maximum of $2,500.

The bill will change the fine to $100 during the first 15 days of the lapse, $200 during the second 15 days and $9 per day after the first 30 days, up to $3,000.

Funds generated by the fines will go toward replenishing the state’s Medevac helicopter fleet, and will fund first-responder services and volunteer emergency organizations.

Additional money will be placed in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which could receive as much as $17 million per year under the bill.

The bill “will be a source of desperately needed funds to expand transit in the Baltimore and Washington regions and for other transportation priorities in rural areas,” Mr. Bronrott said.

Mr. Ehrlich said he will reintroduce a bill to revoke the licenses of those younger than 21 if they are convicted of an alcohol- or drug-related driving offense. Drivers could lose their licenses for three years or until they turn 21, whichever is longer.

The same bill was included in a package of similar driver safety legislation that Mr. Ehrlich introduced last year.

Lawmakers passed most of the package but thought the drunken-driving restrictions were too strict, Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said.

The governor, she said, “believes this bill will not only improve highway safety, but will also save lives on Maryland roads.”


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