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AAA raises alarm on traffic safety bills

With four days left, the 2009 Maryland General Assembly session could still turn out to be "either a banner year or a complete bust" for traffic safety legislation, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. AAA points out that many of the most important measures proposed this session are coming down to the wire. The bills up in the air address such topics as teen driving, speed cameras, texting while driving and drunk driving.

"For Traffic Safety in Maryland, it's now literally do or die for a number of key measures designed to save lives on Maryland's highways," AAA spokeswoman Ragina Averella said. "If all of these measures were to pass, it would be a monumental year for traffic safety in Maryland, and we are urging legislators to make that happen." Some of these bills have passed one house, while others have passed both the House and the Senate in different forms and must be reconciled before adjournment Monday night, allowing them to go to the governor.

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I checked with The Baltimore Sun's Gadi Dechter in Annapolis, and he said Gov. Martin O'Malley's speed camera bill, amended to apply to work and school zones only, is well on its way to final passage. The Senate version, free of amendments, received preliminary approval in the House Friday. One drunk driving measure that would seem to be a no-brainer is apparently hung up in the House Judiciary Committee -- a notorious graveyard of common sense legislation. The bill would require a yearlong driver's license suspension for anyone convicted twice of any of Maryland's drunk-driving offenses. The Senate has passed the measure. Two bills that have passed already would make it more difficult for repeat drunk drivers to get a second probation before judgment and would stiffen the penalties for people who violate an alcohol restriction imposed by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Key Md Traffic Safety bills Still Rolling; Will they finish safely or crash & Burn? Auto Club Urges Legislators To Pass Bills To Save Lives TOWSON, MD (April 9, 2009) – The Maryland Legislature is poised to make this either a banner year or a complete bust for traffic safety legislation, and with just four working days left in the 2009 General Assembly Session, it could still go either way, according to Ragina C. Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “For Traffic Safety in Maryland, it’s now literally do or die for a number of key measures designed to save lives on Maryland’s highways,” the AAA spokeswoman noted. Bills are still being considered that would crack down on drunk drivers, tighten teen driving laws, outlaw texting while driving, and allow automated speed cameras in school and work zones. “If all of these measures were to pass, it would be a monumental year for traffic safety in Maryland, and we are urging legislators to make that happen,” Averella said. “They can save lives by enacting these measures. The Legislature has the power, by passing these bills, to make Maryland’s roads much safer by reducing highway fatalities and injuries.” In 2006, over 651 lives were lost in crashes, 53,615 were injured, and 225 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, (approximately 34% of total fatalities) in the state of Maryland. “We can do better, and these various legislations would improve those numbers, no question,” Averella said. “It’s been a long time since we have seen this many important traffic safety measures still on the table and viable this late in the session,” said Averella. “Governor Martin O’Malley deserves significant credit because many of the bills are, in fact, ‘administration bills.’ The fact that the Governor made key drunk driving and teen driving measures as well as speed enforcement ‘administration bills’ certainly added gravitas to them.” “As administration bills, these measures have also enjoyed major support from House and Senate leadership which has also been very helpful and probably explains why so many safety measures are still alive with just four working days left,” Averella continued. “Sine Die”, the close of the Maryland legislative session, comes next Monday night at 11:59 p.m. Measures still pending that AAA terms critical to highway safety include: · Teen Driving Bills – Although both the House and Senate have passed their respective versions of the bill, final amendments are still being addressed. · Statewide Speed Camera Bill – If passed, it will authorize speed cameras in work and school zones. The bill has passed in the Senate and is currently before the House pending action. · Texting while Driving Ban – A House version and Senate version of the bills have passed and are now being considered in alternate Committees. · Drunk Driving Bills: o Underage Drinking Bill – This bill targets both underage drinkers in Maryland, by criminalizing alcohol-consumption, as well as imposing a criminal penalty for those who unlawfully supply underage persons with alcohol. This bill has faced numerous amendments, which have weakened the original intent of the bill, specifically as it relates to criminalizing consumption. The bill, as amended has passed the Senate and is pending action in the House Judiciary Committee. o Mandatory Licensure Suspension – This bill, if passed would mandate a one-year driver's license suspension for anyone convicted twice of ANY of Maryland's impaired driving statutes. The House version of this bill has not been voted on in either the House Judiciary Committee or the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The Senate-version has passed the full Senate, but has not been voted on in the House Judiciary Committee. Several other key drunk driving bills have already passed this year and are expected to become law, including legislation that will: o impose more stringent sanctions on drunk drivers by increasing the time period for a subsequent Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) finding from 5 to 10 years; and o provide for fines up to $500 and up to two months incarceration for persons violating an MVA-imposed driver's license alcohol restriction; “That this many important safety bills are alive this late is an outstanding indicator, but all too often we lose strong bills in the last hours and minutes, regardless of their merits,” noted Averella, who has also lobbied the Legislature on traffic safety issues on behalf of AAA for the last four years and is a former Baltimore police officer. “We are urging legislators not to let that happen this year. For the budgets, this year is a real killer, but for traffic safety, this year could be a real savior, and that’s what we are asking the legislators to consider—Make the 2009 session a Banner Year for Traffic Safety. AAA Mid-Atlantic is based in Wilmington, Del., and serves nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with personal insurance, financial, automotive and travel services through 53 retail branches, regional operations centers and the Internet, at www.aaa.com/community.

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