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For the second straight year, the House Judiciary Committee rejectedDel. Richard N. Dixon's legislation that would reward safe drivers.

But the Carroll Democrat didn't come away from the committee empty-handed in his effort to give a break to normally responsible Maryland motorists who are cited by police for an occasional and relatively innocuous mistake.

The committee passed, 20-1, on Thursday an alternative bill sponsored by Dixon that also would help motorists wipe their slates clean,provided they stay error-free on the roads and have no serious past driving-related offenses. That legislation would require the Motor Vehicle Administration to expunge driving records of individuals who:

* Have not been convicted of a moving violation or a driving-related criminal offense for the preceding three years,

* Have not been convicted of, or placed on probation for a drunken or drugged drivingoffense, and

* Have never had their license suspended or revoked.

Dixon said he favored his bill that would have awarded a "safe-driving point" for each calendar year in which a motorist maintained a clean record. The points -- up to five -- would have been used to offset an equivalent number of penalty points assessed for violations, such as speeding.

The committee killed the measure Thursday, 21-0.

"That's the one I think more people would want," he said.

At a Wednesday hearing, Dixon argued that the "safe-driving points" bill would cut down on frivolous traffic cases consuming court time, free police officers who otherwise would be stuck in court and keep insurance premiums from escalating for normally responsible drivers.

But he acknowledged its chances were all but doomed because the MVA opposed it. MVA associate administrator Nance Stamboni said "safe-driving points" would diminish the agency's efforts to identify unsafe drivers and take corrective action.

But conversely, the MVA gave Dixon'salternate bill, which now goes to the House floor, a major boost with its support.

"We believe it will provide a service to all your constituents," Stamboni told the committee.

Stamboni said the bill would benefit the 90 percent of Maryland's drivers who are responsible, but wouldn't let the 10 percent of erratic drivers off the hook.

Even though points are erased from records after two years, the MVAisn't permitted to purge convictions unless requested by letter by the licensee.

Employers, insurance companies, lawyers, landlords and any other individuals can gain access to those records.

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