The high numbers of drivers killed on Harford County roads means the county's safety agencies will have to work closer together, Sheriff Jesse Bane told members and guests of the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company at its annual banquet Saturday night.
After previously being ranked the fifth in the state for the number of traffic fatalities, Bane said the January statistics show Harford is now ranked fourth.
He mentioned the fatal motorcycle crash that took place earlier that day on Route 440, and said the man killed was the father of a deputy. The Sheriff's Office re-routed the deputy so he would not have to respond to his father's fatal accident, Bane said.
Bane thanked the fire company for its cooperation with the Sheriff's Office.
"We are out there working together on a lot of different things. Unfortunately, as time goes on, we are going to be working closer together on traffic," he said. "We have a very low crime rate; it continues to fall... The thing where we are really hurting is traffic. That is the biggest complaint from everyone in the county."
"The Sheriff's Office is going to be putting some initiatives in place to try to deal with this," he added.
Harford had 23 fatalities on its highways in 2011, 10 of them on roads in the northern half of the county. Counting Saturday's motorcycle accident, there have been four fatalities recorded so far in 2012.
Jerry Scarborough, a veteran Darlington firefighter who was one of the emcees for Saturday night's banquet, also said three recent accidents that involved the fire company's family members inspired him to write a poem.
"After one horrible accident, I started writing 'Leave It At the Door,'" he said.
The poem encourages first responders to stay strong even while responding to incidents with which they had personal connections.
"As we say in the fire company, leave your feelings at the door. But when you work on a loved one, your heart says so much more," Scarborough said in his poem. "God gave you the ability; the reward is in heaven above."
Jim Terrell, another emcee, suggested firefighters and EMS responders should get more recognition.
He noted that if it was not for emergency responders, "there would be dead people everywhere."
"Every time someone in Harford County requests a fire or ambulance, they get one, every time. And 99.9 percent of the time, they get it professionally, quickly and easily," he said.
Terrell compared the statistic with that of a professional ballplayer who has a high batting average and gets paid millions of dollars.
"We are batting almost 1,000, for free," he said. "Strange priorities, right?"
As usual, plenty of awards and recognitions were also given out during the night to top responders and those who work diligently behind the scenes at Darlington's fire company.
Maryland Sen. Barry Glassman and County Councilman Chad Shrodes were on hand to present awards from their respective governing bodies, as was a representative from County Executive David Craig's office.
The firefighter of the year was Spencer Tolliver, who was also the fourth top responder in fire operations.