Drunken driving deaths in Md. rising

While alcohol-linked fatalities fall nationally, state's figures up 12%

Two Anne Arundel teens are latest victims

August 23, 2005|By William Wan and Richard Irwin | William Wan and Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

Deaths linked to drunken driving declined across the nation last year but increased in Maryland - continuing a trend locally, according to statistics released yesterday.

Even as officials praised the national decline yesterday and announced an enforcement for the coming holiday weekend, two Anne Arundel County families were grieving from the state's latest tragedy blamed on drunken driving: 16-year-olds killed last weekend in Severna Park.

"I was very disappointed when I saw the numbers today and just crushed when I heard about the two boys," said Nancy Kelly, a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Maryland, who joined the organization when her son was killed by a drunken driver eight years ago. "How sad. It just goes on and on."

The two 16-year-old boys from Arnold died and their teenage driver was hurt when the car in which they were riding was rear-ended Saturday night by another vehicle - driven by a woman who failed a Breathalyzer test for alcohol, county police said.

Kevin George Durm, who was riding in the front passenger seat of the rear-ended Volkswagen, died yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Rear-seat passenger David Jeffrey Snyder was pronounced dead there shortly after the crash.

The driver of the Volkswagen, Nicholas Andrew Kirby, 16, was released yesterday from Harbor Hospital.

Police said charges were pending against the other driver, a 47-year-old Annapolis woman, who they said was injured but declined treatment at the scene.

At a viewing for David Snyder last night, the line to pass his open casket stretched outside the Hardesty Funeral Home in Annapolis and snaked around the parking lot and onto the street more than four blocks.

Friends and relatives wept and railed against the driver and what they viewed as the crime that killed David.

"Drunk driving is a blight on our society," said family friend Stephen Brown, 48. "David was just stopped at a red light and now he's gone."

"I think many people think the drunk-driving problem has been solved," MADD's Kelly said in a telephone interview. "This shows it has not. These are not accidents, they are crimes. Nobody accidentally drives drunk."

Maryland showed a 12 percent increase last year in fatal crashes involving a driver or a motorcycle rider with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show. Maryland had 209 such fatalities last year, compared with 187 in 2003.

During the same period, the nation reported a 2 percent decrease, with 12,874 fatalities in 2004 compared with 13,096 in 2003.

While the number of fatalities fell in 30 states last year, it grew in 18 states. Utah saw the greatest rise with an 81 percent increase in alcohol-related fatalities. Utah officials attributed some of the growth to the increased number of motorists on the road.

In Maryland, the State Highway Administration did not have any immediate explanation for the increase in fatalities.

"There's no one factor I can point to right away," said Chuck Gischlar, an SHA spokesman, last night. "It's something we take seriously."

In 2000, 2001 and 2003, Maryland has seen annual increases in alcohol-related fatalities - those which include at least one person involved in the accident having alcohol in their system, NHTSA statistics show.

In the Severna Park accident, police said the teens' car was stopped for a red light on Ritchie Highway at McKinsey Road when it was hit in the rear by a Chevrolet driven by the Annapolis woman. The crash pushed the Volkswagen into the intersection, and ignited its fuel tank.

The Chevrolet then hit a Buick stopped on the other side of the yellow center line. A witness put out the car fire with an extinguisher, police said.

At last night's visitation in Annapolis, friends and family described David as a talented athlete in basketball, soccer and lacrosse. He lay in the casket wearing his school basketball jacket, with his Severn School logo on the left breast.

David's aunt, Ellen Prosky, tried to comfort her son Daniel, 11, who had only tears to express his anger. "It's unbelievable that people can do this," she said.

Then she gestured toward the long line of friends waiting to pay their respects to her nephew, sobbing, hugging and trying to comfort one another. "I wish the woman who killed David could be here to see this."

Sun staff writer Annie Linskey and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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