NEWS RELEASE

MARYLAND REMEMBERS DUI VICTIMS AND FIGHTS BACK


Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown Meets with Families and Commits to Removing Drunk Drivers, Repeat Offenders from Maryland Roadways

ANNAPOLIS, MD (December 9, 2009) – In a tribute to lives stolen by drunk drivers,Video Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown joined the surviving family members and friends of drunk driving victims in remembrance and a resolve to prevent these needless tragedies. During the ceremony, Brown presented a new Executive Order that forms a committee with one mission: tracking impaired drivers from arrest, through adjudication and treatment. Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, Maryland State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen and Associate Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Brian McLaughlin also participated in the ceremony and joined with families and friends from across Maryland who presented photographs of their loved ones in the annual Maryland Remembers ceremony.

A tribute to lives stolen by drunk drivers.
 
“Governor O’Malley and I are committed to ending drunk driving and improving safety on our roads. Earlier this year, we passed several bills strengthening our impaired driving laws and we’ve put drunk drivers on notice with a tough message: ‘If you drink and drive, you will be caught, you will be arrested and you will spend time in jail,’” said Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown. “Too often drunk drivers are caught and arrested but then released and allowed to perpetuate the cycle that too often leads down a path of destruction and tragedy. Today we announce an additional bold step in the fight against drunk driving – the research and development of a new program to prevent DUI offenders from becoming repeat offenders.”

The new executive order, signed earlier this week by Governor Martin O’Malley and taking effect immediately, calls for the assembly of a task force to examine and develop a framework for an alcohol safety program, a recommendation of the legislatively mandated Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol. The purpose of the new alcohol program is to lay the groundwork to build a comprehensive impaired driving program titled the Maryland Alcohol Safety Action Program (MASAP). The MASAP would help track and serve the “whole” offender from the point of arrest, through adjudication, completion of treatment and beyond. The goal is to join all agencies that come in contact with DUI offenders to work together to ensure proper sentencing, education and treatment strategies, and a reduction in recidivism through monitoring.

Four new DUI laws went into effect on October 1, providing the necessary tools to law enforcement officers and judges to keep offenders off of Maryland roads.  The laws tighten legal loopholes through which drunk drivers escape. Together, the laws represent a powerful strike against DUI offenders. The new laws include a one-year driver’s license suspension for persons convicted twice of Maryland’s impaired driving statutes; outlawing the “consumption” of alcohol by those under 21 and criminalizing the provision of alcohol to minors; prohibiting DUI offenders from receiving a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) more than once in a 10 year period; as well as a provision for fines and incarceration for persons violating a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) imposed driver’s license alcohol restriction.

Ceremony participants with Lt. Governor Brown.
 
Jan Withers and Joseph Sikes, participated in the ceremony and shared the emotional story of their daughter’s, Alisa Withers, untimely death. Alisa Withers was 15 years-old when she died of her injuries sustained during a crash caused by an underage drunk driver in 1997.

“Initially, I was so stricken with grief by my daughter’s death that I was unable to get out of bed,” said Jan Withers. “Then I received so much support from my Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim advocates and that truly kept me going. It made me want to help others in my situation.”

Today, Jan is a MADD victim advocate herself, as well as a national board member of MADD. In these roles, she lobbies for tougher legislation, leads a weekly support group and frequently accompanies other victims to emotionally difficult court hearings. Her husband, Joseph Sikes, has joined her in the crusade and served on the Governor’s Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol.

Last year on Maryland roads, 152 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes. More than 4,200 additional people were injured in alcohol-related crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released earlier this week a new report indicating that Maryland experienced a 12.5 percent drop in its alcohol-fatality rate between 2007 and 2008.

“Lives are still being lost in this battle and we cannot declare a victory,” said Transportation Secretary Swaim-Staley.  “We need to do more.  Our message is simple: Don’t drink and drive and if you see a suspected drunk driver, call 911.  Do your part.  We all play a role in this fight.”

Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, Maryland State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen and Associate Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Brian McLaughlin participated in the ceremony and joined with families and friends from across Maryland who presented photographs of their loved ones in the annual Maryland Remembers ceremony.

Maryland Remembers serves as the culmination of both the state’s regular sobriety checkpoint campaign, Checkpoint Strikeforce, and the opportunity to highlight the advancements made by the Impaired Driving Coalition and the Task Force to Combat Driving under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol. Last year in Maryland, checkpoints resulted in 43,797 contacts made to raise public awareness of increased enforcement. Law enforcement agencies are planning to conduct at least one sobriety checkpoint or saturation patrol every week throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. In 2008, 24,000 Maryland drivers were arrested for DUI.

A July 2009 public opinion survey of males between the ages of 21 and 35 in Maryland, Virginia and District of Columbia found that the biggest fear amongst this group of local male drivers, as a result of driving while intoxicated, is killing or injuring someone else (75 percent), more than arrest (two percent) or their own death (ten percent). Nearly three-quarters of these local drivers perceive drunk driving as one of the most serious dangers faced on area roadways. More than nine-out-of-ten of this group of local male drivers support the use of sobriety checkpoints.

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