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Maryland May Soon See Strict New Drunk Driving Laws

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- A Montgomery County police officer was struck and killed by a drunk driver while he was on DUI patrol. His death has led to a major push for strict new laws about drunk driving in the state of Maryland.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the crackdown.

In Montgomery County alone last year, 16 of their police cruiers were struck by drunk drivers---including the one Officer Noah Leotta was standing next to.

On December 3, 24-year-old Officer Noah Leotta pulled over a drunk driver on the side of the road when a Honda CRV smashed right into him. He died seven days later.

"It's just very painful and sad for us to know that his life was cut tragically short, needlessly, when he had so much potential for the future," said Montgomery County Police Captain Tom Didone.

Police say the driver that hit Leotta could barely stand and had been convicted of drunk driving three times before.

"The state of Maryland has some of the weakest penalties for drunk drivers," said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger.

Now there's a new push to pass Noah's Law, which would require ignition interlocks in car breathalyzers to be installed for all drunk drivers---including first time offenders.

"The stakes are simply too high to give drunk drivers one free bite at the apple," said Senator Jamie Raskin.

According to the CDC, ignition interlocks reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67%. Twenty-six states have already enacted similar legislation.

"Fifty percent less fatalities. There was 130 fatalities last year; you're saving half of those lives," said Lisa Spicknall, MADD.

Drivers we spoke with support the new initiative.

"I think it's a good thing. I think it's wrong that anybody drink and drive at this point," said one.

"Even if it's an iota of a difference that it makes, they should implement it," said another.

Advocates have been trying to pass similar legislation in Annapolis for the past eight years.

Charges are still pending against the driver who struck and killed Officer Noah Leotta.

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