Recipe for Disaster

June 08, 1993

Just before a speeding car hit a guardrail on Liberty Road outside Eldersburg early Sunday morning, all the ingredients for a disaster had been assembled: A group of teen-agers had been out at night beyond a reasonable hour; the driver was an unlicensed teen; eight people were stuffed into a small car and none was wearing a seat belt; police said the car was stolen, and the group had been drinking.

The result was predictable: three young people are dead; two seriously injured sisters are recuperating at the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center, and three juveniles await trial on charges ranging from possession of alcohol to auto theft to negligent homicide.

The Carroll County state's attorney called the accident the worst drunken-driving case locally in more than a decade. Our condolences go out to the families of the youths who were killed.

It is regrettable that tragedies such as the one in Carroll County still happen in spite of the massive educational campaigns about drunken driving over the past several years. The fact is, all the messages broadcast on television or mentioned at school assemblies are not going to make an impression on every teen. But that is no reason to give up on the educational efforts; in fact, catastrophes such as this demand only that we redouble them.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving have raised public consciousness about the danger of combining alcohol and motoring. Nationally, traffic fatalities caused by drunken driving have been slowly decreasing. Nevertheless, about 40 percent of the nation's traffic deaths can still be traced to driving while intoxicated. In Carroll, about one-third of fatal accidents last year may have been alcohol-related.

More than just education is needed. Liquor stores must check that all customers buying beer and liquor are of legal drinking age. Police should continue to set up sobriety checkpoints to trap drunken drivers. Parents should monitor their children to see that they aren't drinking and driving. If they are, the parents have to take drastic action -- denying them use of the car. Teen-agers must take responsibility for their actions. There is no excuse for stealing a car nor getting into a car that is stolen. There is no excuse for driving intoxicated.

Some tragedies are unavoidable. Given the circumstances surrounding this weekend's accident, this one was inevitable. We must continue all our efforts to stop these predictable tragedies.

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