Readers Respond

Watch out for drunk drivers this weekend

While The Baltimore Sun is helping to usher in a celebrated time of year otherwise known as summer ("Memorial Day weekend travel projected to be busiest in a decade," May 20), the next three months are also a dangerous time of year when it comes to highway safety.

In fact, 2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show that June, July and August are the single three deadliest months of the year when it comes to U.S. traffic crashes. Meanwhile, 2013 NHTSA data shows that nearly half of this country's highway deaths occur specifically on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.


Add to that the realization that the summer months play host to not one but three U.S. holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day) where, on average, nearly 40 percent of U.S. traffic deaths involve alcohol-impaired drivers operating on roadways with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, and you've got a virtual recipe for disaster, especially for Maryland's beach-bound roadways.

However, it doesn't have to be the case. As each drunk driving fatality, injury, crash and arrest is 100 percent preventable, this scourge can be thwarted.


To do so, drivers in or through Maryland need to know the facts: on average, drunk drivers kill nearly three persons every single weekend in Maryland, and that NHTSA data for 2013 show that the drivers responsible for Maryland's 141 drunk driving deaths that year weren't "just tipsy" but downright hammered, as more than two-thirds had blood alcohol levels of virtually two or more times the legal limit.

Drivers in or through Maryland also need to know the state's laws when it comes to drunk driving, which include:

•Penalties of up to $ 1,000 and one-year jail terms await first-time DUI offenders in the state, plus mandatory ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders convicted of driving with a .15 or higher BAC;

•A Maryland law, enacted just last year, mandates ignition interlocks for all persons convicted of DUI while transporting a minor;

•And an even newer Maryland law, signed by Gov. Larry Hogan this month and effective later this year, allows for driver's license revocation for certain, fatal DUIs.

You'd like to think that it goes without saying to never drive drunk nor let anyone else do the same. But here are two, succinct calls to action offered to Maryland drivers this summer, including those who have every confidence in their own ability to not drive impaired — a confidence which, unfortunately, doesn't extend to the next driver.

First, report drunk drivers. Motorists in or through Maryland who suspect that they are sharing a roadway with an impaired driver should report it by safely dialing 911.

And second, buckle-up. While you often hear, correctly, that wearing a seat belt may be your best defense against a drunk driver, the true bottom-line is that the routine wearing of seat belts is the single most effective measure to reduce crash-related deaths and injuries.


Kurt Gregory Erickson, Falls Church, Va.

The writer is president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.