The efforts of the CRASH coalition of Carroll County to make highways and roads safer for motorists and pedestrians have been instrumental in the significant drop in fatalities in the county.
Five people have died on Carroll roads and highways this year, well below recent annual fatality rates that have ranged between 17 and 30, according to Maryland State Police records.
The coalition of state and local government, law enforcement, business and community groups gathered at Western Maryland College in Westminster on Friday to bestow awards on members who have contributed to the success of its safety campaigns.
"If not for the [public awareness] campaigns and extra speed patrols, the number of deaths and injuries in speed- and alcohol-related traffic accidents would not be falling," said Lt. Charles Paulsen, a deputy sheriff and supporter of Carroll Resources to Advance Safer Highways. "We've begun seeing the trend - lower speeds - when we monitor county roads and highways, so someone is getting the message."
Paulsen credited Kim Jones of the county Health Department. It is her job to coordinate the county's CRASH program and get the message out to the public with a variety of campaigns, including those promoting seat belt and child safety seat use.
The coalition honored Lt. William Smith, a deputy and co-worker of Paulsen's, who is a living testament to the value of seat belts and air bags.
Smith said he was befuddled at first over his receiving an award, stemming from a head-on collision he survived June 29 in Manchester.
"I was only doing what was mandated - wearing my seat belt - when I was driving south on Route 27 and a car turning left onto Albert Rill Road suddenly was in front of me," Smith said.
"Then I realized I am representing all those who work so hard to make safer cars and publicize highway safety," Smith said. "I'm fortunate to be alive, and glad the couple in the other car survived because they also had seat belts and working air bags."
Other award recipients Friday included:
Car dealers Jeff Barnes of Eldersburg, Len Stoler of Westminster, and Target, a discount retailer in Westminster. They were honored for holding child safety seat checks, during which 210 motorists had their children's safety seats examined and properly installed. Examinations uncovered a 95 percent misuse rate during those campaigns, Jones noted.
The Westminster office of the Maryland State Highway Administration, for installing buckle-up signs at all county Park-N-Ride lots and for periodically displaying a highway safety message board on Route 140.
The police agencies of Sykesville, Taneytown, Manchester, Hampstead and Westminster as well as state troopers from the Westminster barracks and deputies from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office were honored for their cooperation with the coalition.