JESSUP, Md. – As Marylanders prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) and law enforcement officials are reminding motorists to stay safe and help protect others by designating a sober ride home. At an event Wednesday at the Maryland State Police (MSP) barrack in Howard County, officials offered a warning that the State Police Impaired Driving Reduction Effort – or SPIDRE – team will be out in force to take impaired drivers off the road.
“We are focused on ensuring the safety of everyone traveling on our roads this holiday weekend,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “The injuries and fatalities that occur as a result of someone’s poor decision to get behind the wheel while impaired are preventable, which is why we continue to stress the importance of making a plan for a sober ride home – whether by using public transit, scheduling a rideshare or abstaining from drinking alcohol and/or drugs.”
Formed in 2013, SPIDRE is a specially trained team of five troopers who work in targeted areas in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas, 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 impaired 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 nearly 4,000 arrests of persons suspected of driving under the influence.
“Impaired driving affects everyone on the road, not just the individual who made the poor decision to get behind the wheel,” said Lt. Col. Roland L. Butler, Jr., Chief of MSP Field Operations Bureau. “We are committed to removing what are, undoubtedly, some of the most dangerous drivers on our highways.”
Administrator Nizer and Lt. Col. Butler were joined by Kimberly Sizemore, who shared the story of how impaired driving affected her family. On May 12, 2020, Kimberly’s son, Bennett, was struck head-on in his vehicle by another vehicle driven by an impaired driver in the middle of the afternoon. It was determined the driver had a blood alcohol content four times the legal limit and was actively drinking when his vehicle crossed the middle line and struck Bennett. The injuries Bennett suffered from the crash changed his life forever, preventing him from continuing his dream career as an electrician. During Wednesday’s event, Sizemore urged everyone that if they see someone attempting to drive impaired, speak up and help prevent tragedy.
Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Over the past five years in Maryland, however, nearly 800 people have been killed and 15,300 have been injured in crashes involving an impaired driver. Police reports show increased speed, instances of impairment and lower seat belt use are among 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 in Maryland, law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 6,400 suspected impaired drivers.
Besides the risk of causing injury or death, driving under the influence or otherwise impaired may result in 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.
To coincide with the high visibility enforcement, the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office also will share its “Be the Make A Plan Driver” and “Be the Sober Driver” messages through a variety of media including billboards, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
MDOT MVA reminds drivers to be patient, leave extra time and expect congestion oer the Fourth of July holiday, as high 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.
While the SPIDRE team and allied law enforcement partners will monitor roads for impaired drivers this Fourth of July 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 had 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 learn more about the MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s Zero Deaths campaign, visit zerodeathsmd.gov or like and follow @ZeroDeathsMD on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.