STEVENSVILLE — The Maryland Department of Transportation and police agencies from across the Eastern Shore announced the official start of the Bay to Beach campaign Tuesday, Aug. 6, to stop drunk and distracted driving.
Chrissy Nizer, Gov. Hogan’s highway safety representative, was joined by Capt. Dan Pickett, executive officer of the Maryland State Police Field Operations Bureau; Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis; and Joe Sykes, a resident of Centreville who lost his daughter in 1992 due to a drunk driver.
“We want to remind drivers to never drive impaired, avoid distractions and aggressive driving and buckle up every time,” said Nizer. “The Regional Checkpoint Strike Force campaign goes through Labor Day and I want to challenge everyone to make a plan for a safe ride home. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to save lives on our roadways.”
According to police data collected from across the state, one third of all fatal collisions are due to impaired driving. Also statewide, 800 people were killed and another 16,000 were injured in collisions involving drugs or alcohol between 2014 to 2018.
The area of Bay beach enforcement extents the full corridor of Route 50 with MDTA Police working with the sheriff’s offices in Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.
Local police departments taking part include Easton, Cambridge, Salisbury, Berlin, and Ocean City.
MDOT even deployed the Mobile Breath Alcohol Testing Truck in December 2016 to support the efforts to reduce drunk drivers. It provides officers with on-scene breath-testing and is available to allied agencies. It weighs 26,600 pounds with a length of 34 feet and a height of 12 feet.
“One of the most challenging parts of my job over the years is delivering the news to family that their loved one isn’t coming home,” said Pickett. “Even more painful is informing them that it was a drunk driver that was responsible. I can assure you that we’re working daily to reach zero deaths on our highways.”
Pickett said MSP will be deploying additional troopers, saturation patrols and high visibility enforcement.
Bay beach checkpoints will be conducted in the Berlin area Thursday, Aug. 15, and in Easton in Friday, Aug. 16, with DUI checkpoints extending across the state.
Delaware is also taking part with police departments in Bethany Beach, Dagsboro, Fenwick Island, Lewes, Ocean View, Rebobeth Beach, Selbyville, and South Bethany Beach all in this month’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.
“Everyone knows that from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City is when most motorists seem to check their common sense. We’re going to be using traditional and non-traditional methods of enforcement. Unfortunately, there will be those choosing to drink and drive or text and drive,” said Lewis.
According to Lewis, those are the individuals being targeted by the saturation patrols in order to cut down on fatal and non-fatal collisions.
Sykes echoed Lewis’ sentiments saying that losing a loved one to drunk or distracted driving is nothing short of a waste.
“We sat with my daughter with lifesaving devices connected to her and it was apparent that we were going to lose our daughter,” said Sykes. “You don’t plan to lose your children and if you have to face that I can’t describe that pain to anybody. Believe it or not, we were lucky because we got to say goodbye, but some of the people we talk to didn’t even get that chance with their loved ones.”
Sykes’ daughter, Alyssa, was involved in collision when a drunk teen driving more than 100 mph lost control, throwing her from the vehicle. Yet after grieving, Sykes and his family began working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving with his wife serving as national president for four years.
Sykes currently serves on the national board of directors for the organization.
The organization reaches out to other victims and works on legislation as well as with car manufacturers to introduce models with integrated breathalyzer technology.
To learn more about the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, visit www.towardzerodeathsmd.com.