A 32-year-old Baltimore County man became the state's first traffic fatality of 1992 yesterday morning when the car he was driving hit a cab head on in northern Anne Arundel County.
State police say they believe alcohol may have contributed to the accident, which killed Joseph Gerard Brauns of the 7600 block of Windsor Mill Road in Woodlawn. Police also said Mr. Brauns was not wearing a seat belt, which seems to buck a trend that helped last year's death toll decline from the year before.
In 1991, 700 people died on Maryland roadways, compared with 727 in 1990.
State police spokesman Chuck Jackson said the death toll from car accidents has declined in recent years. The record number of deaths in one year occurred in the mid-1960s, when more than 800 people were killed, he said.
Mr. Jackson said officials will be correlating data on safety belt use."We think it made a difference," he said. The spokesman also said that by fall 1991 there were 60 fewer deaths on roadways than in the fall of the previous year. But the gap closed in the latter part of 1991 because seat belt use dropped, he said.
The last official traffic death of 1991 occurred Christmas Eve, when a car Robert Gorman Stenstrom was riding in crossed the center line of Indian Head Highway in Prince George's County and struck another car head on.
Police said Mr. Stenstrom, 55, of Washington, died the same night as the accident, but his death was not reported to state police until Tuesday, making him the 700th person to die on state roadways in 1991.
In the accident yesterday, police said Mr. Brauns was driving on the Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Ferndale about 4:43 a.m. when his 1988 Suzuki crossed the center line near Ferndale Avenue and struck a taxicab. Mr. Brauns died about 10:30 a.m. at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
The driver of the cab, Charles Woodworth, 57, of the 5000 block of Brookwood Road, Baltimore, had just picked up a passenger at a Linthicum bar. Mr. Woodworth, who drives for Glen Burnie-based Associated Cabs, was treated at North Arundel Hospital, said Cpl. Alan Carter, of the Glen Burnie barracks.
The cab's passenger, 50-year-old Marie Shives, of the 200 block South Broadview Boulevard, Glen Burnie, was listed in fair condition yesterday at the shock trauma center.
About 45 minutes before that accident, Charles Butts of Sharpsburg lost control of his car on Interstate 70, near Maryland Route 65. State police said Mr. Butts was thrown from his car after it veered off the road and rolled over several times.
He was taken by ambulance to Washington County Hospital, where he was in critical condition last night.