“We have so much to celebrate, and we want all motorists to Keep Summer Alive by driving sober or planning a sober ride home – this weekend and the entire summer,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Year after year, the Fourth of July holiday is one of the deadliest weekends of the year, but it doesn’t have to be. Buckle up, slow down, put the phone away, look out for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, and always drive sober.”
Formed in 2013, SPIDRE is a specially trained team of five troopers who work in targeted areas in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan area where impaired driving is a leading cause of death and injury. Team members train other state police troopers and local law enforcement officers, and partner with local police departments and agencies to reduce alcohol related crashes throughout Maryland. MSP and MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office provide funding for this effort. Since its inception, SPIDRE has been responsible for more than 3,600 arrests for suspected driving under the influence.
“There are far too many options available to circumvent a tragic incident from occurring,” said Lieutenant Colonel Roland L. Butler, Jr., Chief of Maryland State Police Field Operations Bureau. “It is critical that we continue to increase awareness of the consequences of drunk driving, as we work to increase the odds of getting caught.”
Administrator Nizer and Lt. Col. Butler were joined at the MSP barrack by Laura Murphy, who shared the story of how impaired driving affected her family. Murphy’s 12-year-old nephew, Matthew, was hit and killed by a drug impaired driver in April 2018 while walking on a sidewalk with his mother and younger brother. Since then, Murphy has volunteered with Mothers Against Drunk Driver to carry on Matthew’s memory and encourage drivers to make safer choices to prevent impaired driving crashes.
Between 2015 and 2019, more than 800 people died and more than 15,600 were injured in drug- and/or alcohol-involved crashes in Maryland. Last year, 574 fatalities occurred on Maryland roadways, an increase of 6.4% compared to 2019 even though traffic volumes were down as much as 50% during portions of 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data show traffic volumes returning; in recent weeks volumes have been down about 10% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Since the start of the pandemic, initial police reports show increased speed, instances of impairment and lower seat belt use as the most common contributing factors in motor vehicle fatalities. In addition to the SPIDRE team, impaired driving enforcement has occurred this year with state and local law enforcement agencies. Between January and May, law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 6,400 impaired drivers – 850 more compared to the same time last year.
Besides the risk of causing injury or death, driving under the influence or while intoxicated may result in an arrest, jail time, extensive legal costs and fines. Under the 2016 implementation of Noah’s Law, drivers convicted of DUI are also required to participate in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program.
While the SPIDRE team and allied law enforcement partners will monitor roads for impaired drivers this holiday weekend, officials also warn pedestrians of the potential impact of impairment. Analysis of pedestrian fatalities has revealed an increasing number of pedestrians struck by vehicles have alcohol or drugs in their system at the time of the crash. In addition to avoiding impairment, pedestrians are reminded of the following rules of the road:
- Use sidewalks and marked crosswalks whenever possible.
- Press the pedestrian signal button and wait for the walk signal.
- Always stop at the curb and look left, right and left before crossing a street.
- Watch for cars turning in or leaving driveways.
- Wear light or bright colored clothing, especially if out walking after dusk.
- Pay attention and take off headphones while walking – no texting or playing games.
- Walk, don’t run across the street.
To coincide with the high visibility enforcement, the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office also will share “Be the Make A Plan Driver” and “Be the Sober Driver” messages on a variety of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
As drivers take to the road during the Independence Day holiday, MDOT MVA reminds drivers to be patient, leave extra time and expect congestion as pre-pandemic levels of traffic are anticipated. To plan ahead, visit www.md511.org for traffic information or connect to 511 from a hands-free mobile device.
Learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.