ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today unveiled a new sign dedicating a portion of MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) in the Olney area of Montgomery County to honor Police Officer Noah A. Leotta. Officer Leotta was struck by a drunk driver on December 3, 2015, while pulling over another suspected drunk driver during a holiday patrol. He died on December 10 as a result of his injuries. Following his tragic death, Officer Leotta’s family, friends and fellow officers worked with state elected officials to pass Senate Bill 945, the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 (Noah’s Law). The governor signed the bill into law on May 19, 2016.
“Today as we unveil signs on MD 97 bearing Noah’s name, along with the message ‘Don’t Drink And Drive,’ we remember him and we say ‘thank you,’” said Governor Hogan. “We thank Noah for his service, we thank him for his sacrifice, and we thank him, knowing that even in death, he will continue to save lives through the law which bears his name.”
Noah’s Law will take effect on October 1, 2016. It mandates the use of an ignition interlock for those convicted of drunk driving and will significantly increase administrative driver’s license suspension periods. An ignition interlock is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting when it detects a certain level of alcohol on the driver’s breath and requires the driver to retest at random points while they are driving.
“Noah was a dedicated police officer who had a passion for getting drunk drivers off our roadways,” said Officer Leotta’s father, Richard Leotta. “His legacy of saving lives will continue with the enactment of Noah’s Law. Starting October 1, 2016, Noah’s on patrol.”
Under Noah’s Law, drivers are required to participate in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program for the following convictions:
- Driving under the influence (DUI);
- Driving while impaired (DWI) while transporting a minor under the age of 16;
- Driving while intoxicated with an initial breathalyzer test refusal; and
- Homicide or life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while DUI or DWI.
“Drunk driving kills and ignition interlock is a key tool to end drinking and driving,” said Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn.
Over the past five years, impaired drivers have accounted for roughly one third of all roadway deaths in Maryland. On average, there are 7,884 impaired driving crashes statewide, resulting in 171 fatalities and 4,026 injuries every year.
“Today, we are dedicating this roadway to Officer Noah Leotta, who lost his life while conducting drunk-driving enforcement to protect our community members,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “This roadway, now named in his honor, serves as both a tribute to his passion to protect and a continuing reminder to always drive sober and safely to avoid any more tragic losses.”
“This is a somber occasion as we dedicate a portion of Rt. 97 to Officer Noah Leotta, who, like 171 people on average every year in Maryland, was killed by a drunk driver,” said Delegate Ben Kramer. “But, this also is a time for hope as the start of Noah’s Law on October 1 will save more lives through the expansion of Maryland’s nationally-recognized Ignition Interlock Program. Ignition interlocks save lives…period… and through the law that bears his name, we will know that Officer Noah Leotta is still on the job and saving lives.”
The passage of Noah’s Law strengthens Maryland’s already robust Ignition Interlock Program, making it one of the strongest programs in the nation. Maryland’s program, which began in 1989, is monitored by the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Today’s Ignition Interlock Program is fully automated, which allows the MVA to efficiently monitor participants and take action against program violators. Maryland has the sixth highest number of ignition interlocks installed and the ninth highest usage rate in the nation. Noah’s Law will add several thousand drunk drivers to Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program.
“Our dedicated law enforcement partners throughout the state are committed to removing impaired drivers from our roads,” said Maryland State Police Colonel William M. Pallozzi. “Thanks to Noah’s Law, we have another tool to put an end to this deadly crime.”
“Last December, Officer Noah Leotta was killed doing a job he loved,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger. “Because of Noah’s Law, he is still saving lives. The signs we unveil today reminds all of us of Noah’s service and sacrifice.”
According to a 2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, drivers who have interlocks installed in their vehicles are 35 to 75 percent less likely to have a repeat drunk-driving offense than convicted drunk-drivers who do not have a device installed. The study demonstrates that the ignition interlock device can help change behavior.
“Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program works and last year alone prevented nearly 4,000 drunk-driving trips,” said MVA Administrator Christine E. Nizer. “This program saves lives, and thanks to Noah’s Law, we will be able to save more lives.”
Because of Noah’s dedication to public safety and passion for arresting impaired drivers, Montgomery County state elected officials requested a portion of MD 97 (Georgia Avenue) in the Olney area be dedicated in his memory. The dedication request was reviewed and recommended by the Maryland Transportation Commission and approved by Secretary Rahn. While Noah was not hit along MD 97, he was raised in the Olney community, attended school there and his parents continue to reside in this area. The section of MD 97 to be dedicated in his honor covers approximately a half mile from the Intercounty Connector interchange to Emory Lane, which includes the portion of roadway next to the cemetery where Noah is buried. The dedication signs will include the wording: Don’t Drink and Drive to remind motorists to always make a plan to have a safe and sober ride home.
For more information on Noah’s Law and Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program, www.towardzerodeathsmd.com/noah.