STEVENSVILLE — The Maryland Department of Transportation and police agencies from across the Eastern Shore on Aug. 6 announced the official start of the Bay to Beach campaign to stop drunk and distracted driving.
Chrissy Nizer, Gov. Larry 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,” Nizer said. “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 from 2014 to 2018.
The area of the Bay to Beach enforcement extends the full corridor of U.S. 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.
“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,” Pickett said. “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 on Friday, Aug. 16, with DUI checkpoints extending across the state.
In Delaware, police departments in Bethany Beach, Dagsboro, Fenwick Island, Lewes, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Selbyville and South Bethany Beach are participating 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,” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, those are the individuals being targeted by the saturation patrols in order to cut down on the number of 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,” Sykes said. “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.”
In the crash that killed Sykes’ daughter, a drunk teenager driving more than 100 mph lost control of the vehicle; she was ejected from the vehicle.
Afterward, Sykes and his family began working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. His wife served 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.