For all the progress made in the fight against drunken driving — and much progress has been made — it is important to note that even as the total numbers of those killed and injured are decreasing, there are real people behind those numbers, tragedies that family and friends spend lifetimes trying to reconcile.
Catherine’s Cause and law enforcement held the 13th annual “I Will Remember You” candlelight ceremony to honor those who perished in traffic accidents from October 2018 through October 2019 on Thursday night at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster. The remembrance allowed relatives of those who died to reflect and light candles in memory of their loved ones. Another 25 or so mourning those who died in traffic accident in prior years also returned, making some 40 candles in all. Not all were as a result of drunken driving, but many were. “Every single one of those candles lit could have been a preventable crash,” said Cpl. James Brooks of the Mount Airy Police Department, at the ceremony.
Phil and Cindy Mullikin started Catherine’s Cause in 2007 to fight to prevent drunken driving and, in the process, honor their daughter, Phil Mullikin said. Catherine Anne Mullikin was killed by a drunken driver Nov. 28, 1998, when she was just 20 years old. We couldn’t agree more with Sheriff Jim DeWees, who served as master of ceremonies for the event, when he said: “You’re doing an awful lot to keep drugged and drunk drivers off our roadways. You’ve taken a personal tragedy and worked tirelessly to make sure that Cathy did not die in vain.”
Through tougher laws, enforcement and education, drunken driving fatalities have fallen by one-third over the last 30 years, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. But consider that still means that every day close to 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 48 minutes or more than 10,000 per year.
Catherine’s Cause holds forums for offenders in Carroll County who have been ordered by a judge to attend and hear victim impact stories. Brooks, one of many law enforcement officers in attendance on Thursday, volunteers with Catherine’s Cause, sharing his story with offenders. Brooks lost his brother-in-law, Dan Dziadik, at 29 years old on Aug. 22, 2015. A vehicle driven by a person under the influence of drugs and alcohol struck and killed Dziadik when he was on the way to see a movie with a friend, Brooks said.
Another Catherine’s Cause volunteer, Brooke Hagerty of Silver Run, lost her son Zachary Pressman on Feb. 1, 2016. He was 24 years old. Pressman was traveling with a friend who was supposed to be the designated driver, or DD, but was not sober, according to Hagerty. “It is completely and totally 100% preventable,” Hagerty said afterward.
Lt. Rebecca Bosley, commander of the Maryland State Police Westminster Barrack, read quotes about the deceased as DeWees read the names. Among those honored were a hardworking doctor and father to six daughters; a 4-year-old who loved horses and butterflies; a Vietnam War veteran who died along with his teenage daughter; a beautician and mother who gave free haircuts to the elderly; a young man who was preparing to be a father; and many more.
The night served as a stark reminder about the real people behind the numbers. And of the work being done by Catherine’s Cause and organizations like it to help law enforcement ensure those numbers continue to decrease.