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A Montgomery County delegate wants motorists who are caught driving drunk with children in the car to have their sobriety checked whenever they take the wheel.

A prefiled bill crafted by Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery) would require such drivers to use an ignition interlock device, meaning they would have to pass a Breathalyzer test before their cars would even start.

“Children don’t have the choice of how they get to and from places, often because their parents or other caretakers are the drivers,” Arora said. “I think this could have a real impact in reducing the number of children killed in alcohol-related crashes.”

Current law requires a drunken driver to have had a blood alcohol level of .15 — nearly twice the legal limit — before such a device is required. Arora’s bill would lower the threshold to the legal limit of .08.

Arora introduced a similar but more complex bill in the last session, but it died in committee. He streamlined the bill for reintroduction this year on the advice of colleagues in the legislature, he said.

Statewide, drunken-driving arrests have decreased in the past few years, but the number of people driving drunk with children in the car has been rising, Arora said.

In 2011, police in Maryland made 22,383 arrests for driving under the influence, down from 24,909 in 2007, according to data from Maryland State Police.

But between 2009 and 2011, the state saw a more than 10 percent increase in citations for driving drunk while a minor was in the car, Kurt Erickson, president of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program, said in a statement.

“There’s a real opportunity to use ignition interlock to protect children,” Arora said.

dleaderman@gazette.net